Wait! What? 6/26: T-Swift and Apple shake off dispute, #LoveWins for brands

This is really, really colorful. (Thinkstock Photos)
This is really, really colorful. (Thinkstock Photos)

While you were recovering from the season finale of Game of Thrones, we were scouring the web for our favorite tech stories of the week. Take a break from your “Jon Snow’s not dead” debate – because it’s time for this week’s Wait! What?

  • Seriously, Taylor, we’re going to let you finish. Taylor Swift stood up to “The Man” so to speak by threatening to withhold her 1989 album from Apple Music…and then giving it back almost immediately when they responded with a very neutral letter. Victorious PR stunt?
  • Safety first, then teamwork. We are fascinated with Samsung’s new safety truck that features a video feed of the road ahead. It’s lane change time, y’all!
  • Speaking of driving, Uber is well on its way to a PR meltdown in France.
  • Even though few people actually own them, media can’t stop talking about smartwatches, because they’re futuristic and cool. So, how can marketers handle the challenge of the smartwatch? Embrace push notifications, be adaptive and create an ownable experience for publishers.
  • And finally, on a serious note, we are absolutely thrilled that the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states! Now check out these awesomely supportive tweets from brands that know what’s up.

That’s all – join us next week for a fresh new batch of news at the heart of PR and technology.

Wait! What? 6/19: Enter the taco emoji

Yum. (Thinkstock Photos)
Yum. (Thinkstock Photos)

With the exciting win from the Golden State Warriors you might have missed out on quite a bit of news. Here’s a little recap of some of the week’s top articles on tech and marketing:

  • What do the Pillsbury Doughboy, Tony the Tiger and Mr. Clean all have in common? Brand awareness. Who would have thought that our favorite childhood mascots would teach us a thing or two about charming audiences?
  • Never fear, the taco emoji is finally here! Earlier this week the makers of Unicode Consortium released a new set of emojis complete with popcorn, a cheese wedge and of course, the taco.
  • Facebook engineered its algorithm to better detect and track user interaction on the news feed. The latest update can actually track how long users take to read a post.
  • ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Like A Girl and Love Has No Labels topped the charts as some of the best marketing campaigns from this year’s Facebook Awards.
  • According to researchers, the perfect blog post contains social buttons, an average of 3.2 images and an average number of 9.96 links through out. Seems like overkill, but hey.

What were some of your favorite tidbits from this week? Send us a tweet @BlancandOtus.

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.

Wait! What? 5/8: Storytelling enters the C-Suite, Yelp prepares to exit? Plus: The Emoji Graveyard

A vast abyss of :(. 30,000 of them, to be exact.
A vast abyss of :(. 30,000 of them, to be exact.

Whether you missed the news this week while nursing your tequila-induced hangover, post-#Maypac wallet or a new baby (HAYY royal family), no worries: we mixed up a tasty batch of headlines on the rocks for you:

  • They say compatibility can be measured by affinity for scary movies, but we’d like to propose a new question: is the McDonald’s revamped Hamburglar hot, creepy or actually a blue and black dress?
  • Carly Fiorina officially entered the 2016 presidential race, and so emerged a new PR attack tactic: the “Emoji Graveyard.”
  • To all of the wannabe bloggers out there afraid of taking the plunge who instead use Yelp to post self-indulgent, quixotic passages about every manicure and latte they purchase: get a Tumblr. The end may be nigh.
  • English majors everywhere, rejoice: we could be entering the era of the CSO – Chief Storytelling Officer.
  • Meanwhile, as corporations get cozy with English literature, the peasants have moved on to a new lingua franca, and it looks something like kissy face-frog-eggplant-flying money.

While those were the headlines we were particularly partial to this week, let us know if there’s a story we missed via Twitter, or carrier pigeon-note crafted in all Emoji (a startup idea we’d invest in).

The New Rules of News and Content Values

Thinkstock
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.

Wait! What? 4/10: Apple diversifies emojis, Sparks fly between Tinder and Bud Light

#InclusiveEmojis, courtesy of Apple.
#InclusiveEmojis, courtesy of Apple.

Happy Friday and first weekend of Coachella! Maybe you’re mentally/physically preparing for a weekend at the happiest and most branded place on the planet, or maybe you’re just ready to kick back and enjoy a drink or two (you deserve it) in a more relaxing setting. Either way, here’s the tech news of the week you need to know:

  • iOS 8.3 is here and Apple pleasantly surprises us with hundreds of new emojis to reflect various races of people across the globe. All goes well until Clorox gets involved on Twitter…
  • Speaking of Twitter, they’re just killin’ it with the new tweet within a tweet. This feature allows people to share and comment on tweets without having to shorten the original tweet, thus preserving meaning and context. We’re into it.
  • Want to take a trip to Whatever, USA? Bud Light introduces native videos to Tinder, tempting users to swipe right for Bud Light for a chance to win. If you’re #UpForWhatever, at least that’s one match that can offer some potential.
  • Hulu has provided users a catalog of GIFs from its TV shows, which in theory sounds thrilling. But branded with a Hulu hashtag, accompanied by a disclaimer, and created with a choppy frame-rate, we just can’t recognize these as the GIFs we know and love.
  • Brands have been flocking to the baby of Siri and promoted tweets, otherwise known as ads on Kik. The app lets consumers get cozy and engage with brands through messaging. Are these conversations more engaging than your Tinder ones? Hard to say.

And that concludes this week’s #WaitWhat. If nothing else I hope we have at least inspired you to take your dating app game to the next level this weekend. See you next Friday!

Wait! What? 3/20: Meerkat dominates SXSW, brands go mad for March Madness and more

So inspiring. (Thinkstock)
So inspiring. (Thinkstock)

St. Patrick’s Day, SXSW and March Madness – oh my! While you were off drinking Guinness, fighting your tech hangover from Austin, and frantically filling out your NCAA March Madness bracket, we’ve compiled a list of this week’s top stories to keep you in the know:

  • From barbeque and brews to flying cars and Google Glass, here’s a look back at five standout moments from the interactive portion of this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.
  • Is Facebook suffering from a severe case of me-tooism? The social media network is gearing up to turn its Messenger app into something of a platform, similar to that of Asian chat giant Line. Hmm…
  • Wtf is Meerkat? The Internet’s shiny new toy, an app for live-video streaming, has gone from obscure to nearly viral in just two weeks. Brands such as Starbucks, JCPenny, NASDAQ and Red Bull are among the first to use it. C’mon, you know you want to try it…
  • The time has come, basketball fans – the three most unproductive weeks of the year: March Madness. While you were off gathering teams and filling out an excessive number of brackets, these brands took to social media to participate in all of the madness.
  • How did your office celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Ours was filled with team uniforms, green booze, a good ole St. Patrick’s Day feast and an…Irish jig-off? (See evidence here). All silliness aside, here are five PR takeaways from St. Patrick’s Day. Slainte!

See anything else of note in tech media this week? Tweet us @BlancandOtus and let us know! Our thirst for news is never quenched.

Wait! What? 3/13: This Friday the 13th brings the death of the Internet, a new tech frontier and more

The end is nigh... (Thinkstock)
The end is nigh… (Thinkstock)

What was going on in the tech world this week while you were caught up in all things Apple Watch? From the expected to the unexpected, we have this week’s top stories:

  • Dom Pérignon at the touch of a button…is this a dream? Nope. A new startup brings luxury to IoT!
  • From positive to negative, the Internet is abuzz with all things Apple Watch. But will Apple’s latest innovation mean the death of the Web?
  • Welcome to the billionaires club! Snapchat’s cofounders are each worth $1.5 billion. Not too shabby for a couple of twenty-somethings.
  • Hello Nebraska! From Silicon Valley to Silicon Prairie? Entrepreneurs are fleeing tech hotspots for greener pastures, but why?!
  • RIP. This week we had to say goodbye to one of the truly iconic tech blogs. Farewell, Gigaom…you will be missed (sigh).

Those were our favorite tech bites from this week – what were yours? Tweet us @BlancandOtus and let us know!

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? 2/20: Siri’s new relative, Netflix dating and Lenovo’s Superfish-y behavior

"The Notebook! We love that one equally." (Thinkstock)
“The Notebook! We love that one equally.” (Thinkstock)

Happy Friday! It’s been a week of highs (Gung hay fat choy!), lows (Fifty Shades of Lame…er…Grey), and mediums (meh…other stuff). Before you get to work on your BDSM/Chinese New Year-themed Oscar party, get the run-down on our favorite tech news from the week:

  • And the Oscar goes to … digital marketing? The biggest award show of the year is this Sunday, and with last year’s viewership reaching around 43 million, digital marketers aren’t wasting a drop of that Hollywood advertising gold. Expect targeted social media campaigns and real-time interactive ad experiences, and probably Jennifer Lawrence somewhere.
  • Va…Va…Viv! We never get tired of artificial intelligence stories, especially when they come from the hands of the creators of Siri. Viv, the AI interface that learns from the world to improve upon its capabilities, just closed on $12.5 million in Series B funding.
  • Speaking of weird…check out this video game that gives you an anxiety attack. Italian game developers created Sym, a puzzle-platformer that becomes increasingly confusing and stressful as you reach higher levels. Are we going to play it? That’s a HARD pass. But no.
  • Valentine’s Day might be over, but love is still in the air… and on your Netflix account. A new app called Binger takes a unique approach to digital matchmaking by comparing Netflix viewing data rather than personality questions or body measurements. Cool! Let’s just delete our viewing histories of Vanderpump Rules.
  • Lenovo? More like LeNoNo. This week it surfaced that Lenovo has been shipping PCs with spyware pre-installed to track customer activity online. Superfish, as it’s called, leaves gaping security holes wide open for hackers. Our thoughts on this story are as follows: “…Really?”

That about wraps it up! Keep the news a-comin’, tech world. We love ya and we actually would be ruined without you. See you next week!