Do Nice Headlines Finish First?

Posted by on August 11, 2014 with 0 Comments

We had a media training session this week involving one of our larger clients last week. NaughtyOrNice1_zps06c1f9f3

Executives from around the world flew in to learn about the art of getting key points across in press interviews, and take turns in the Hot Seat (mock interviews with real journalists).

I love these sessions because they help us bond with clients, and share experiences and observations about the worlds of technology and the media.

We commiserated about the increasingly negative and provocative tone of tech reporting. The tech trade press used to be a safe place to share your story, and get your messages across unchallenged. These days, it seems, everyone is after that biting headline that draws viewers and clicks.

That is the perception, but is it true? I saw two articles in the NY Times last week that are relevant to the question – one about the dangers of being too incendiary, and the second, which seems to show people enjoy and prefer to share positive stories.

In Stumbling Along in the Race to be Provocative, William Rhoden wrote:

Stephen A. Smith will return to active duty this week at ESPN, which suspended him for being overzealous — and imprecise — while doing what he is paid to do: provoke and incite. [His] remarks are the latest example of how the line between being thought-provoking and merely provoking has become blurred and how thoughtful discourse has been compromised.

histrionics are intended not as much to facilitate debate as to draw, and keep, fans. As competition has escalated, news media outlets have become increasingly obsessed with their audience numbers. We want your eyes, your ears, your wallets.

Heated debates around polarizing figures and polarizing quotations make for good copy and great TV. But do they lead to positive change?… As we chase dollars, we make progressively less sense

Sheila Marikar wrote in her story On the Nice Internet, Caring is Sharing

Anchored by websites including Thought Catalog, Upworthy and ViralNova, this is an Internet that aims to lift up, not take down…But behind their warm and fuzzy veneers, these growing media companies are businesses, and they peddle in uplifting content because they believe it’s profitable.

“A lot of it is clicky headlines and shareable headlines, and shareable headlines that play with certain identities.. people want to share with their friends to self-represent,” Mr. Magnin said. Indeed, his site has filled a void: Thought Catalog’s compilation of life advice, nostalgic lists and “betcha didn’t know this” type wisdom drew more than 34 million unique visitors in June, according to Quantcast.. the website of Time magazine had about 2.6 million unique visitors during the same month.

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iPhone Case Cage Match at Fusion PR

Posted by on May 30, 2014 with 0 Comments

Cross-posted on Flack’s Revenge

My email query to the Fusion PR team set off a frenzied debate, about the best case to protect an iPhone Cagematch_thumb1 from damage.

I am a chronic phone dropper, and my old phone had just died after one too many. Luckily, it was insured. Unluckily, there was a hefty $200 deductible to replace the phone (which I learned was necessary, after going to Apple’s Genius Bar. The tech came back from some quick exploratory surgey; he looked at me grimly, and just shook his head – the patient was gone).

But Asurion, the inurance company, shipped me a new one overnight, which was great. It was a 5s, a step up from my old iPhone 5. Getting my apps and data back, and getting started with the new phone, were incredibly easy, nothing short of miraculous, via iCloud, and a wizard that walked me through the process.

So I sent the request to the Fusion team and got lots of great email suggestions. The camps seemed split between Otterbox, which some said is clunky, and Lifeproof, which one person called “a dream”. The IT guy favors Evutec: “Nice price at $49.95 and great carbon fiber case.”

The email back and forth turned into some trash talking, and eventually they took the debate offline. The Lifeproof zealot dared the IT guy to a drop test in our NY office – he declined, but she dropped her phone. It survived (I wouldn’t recommend trying this, but word has it that Lifeproof will pay you if a phone with their case gets damaged in a drop).

This is the team I am proud of!. They debate the issues on an intellectual level, and then slug it out, without taking prisoners – don’t get in their way!

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Posted by on May 28, 2014 with 0 Comments

The New Tech PR Launch

Last week we hosted a seminar at Fusion PR, about the New Tech PR Launch, in conjunction with Internet Week.. Attendance was great, and tech journalist Brian Nadel sat in to field questions and share his insight (thanks, Brian!). Stay tuned for the e-book…

  1. Our guest Brian Nadel from @Computerworld mentioned he gets over 100 #pressreleases each day: 99% aren’t read #Launch411atIWNY #PR #IWNY
  2. Great tip from #Launch411atIWNY: Something journalists HATE? Starting a follow-up email with “Not sure if you saw this” #PR #IWNY2014
  3. One of @nadelbrian‘s biggest PR pet peeves: not including a photo or FTP site with info about a product #Launch411atIWNY #IWNY2014
  4. Before you launch your startup know what your goal is: Eyeballs? Sales? Media attention? Reviews? #Launch411atIWNY #IWNY2014
  5. Enjoyed Fusion PR’s Tech PR Launch seminar. Very informative. #IWNY

 

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Capture Attention with a Striking Visual Image

Posted by on May 1, 2014 with 0 Comments

Cross-posted on Flack’s Revenge

“Dig, if you will, the picture…” Prince 20120605_headlines-a

“Every picture tells a story, don’t it?” Rod Stewart

“All I’ve got is a photograph…” Def Leppard

If my musical tastes seem dated (and say something about my age), you might think that the pop artists of the 70s and 80s were singing to today’s content marketers. Pictures are increasingly the visual headline that draw in and engage readers.

Images Stand Out in a Crowded Media Marketplace

Content marketing is growing as more and more marketers jump on board. This adds to the din and makes it difficult to stand out. In a crowded media landscape, brands need to work harder to break through.. “Just write a great headline to reel them in!” goes the standard advice.

However in a sea of tweets, amidst an abundance of great content, an eye-catching image can trump a catchy headline. And, as images increasingly compete for attention too, using the right one can make all the difference in the world.

Selfies Sell!

Selfies have taken center stage in visual content marketing.  I say much more about this in my post that ran this week on the Getty Images Curve blog.

The post explains more about the use of images and short videos in content marketing – why they work, and how to find and choose the right image.

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The Tech Launch: From Big Bang to Long Campaign

Posted by on April 1, 2014 with 0 Comments

Cross-posted on Flack’s Revenge

Dorothy Crenshaw wrote a nice post about the decline of the tech PR launch on the Impressions blog. Eric-haze-the-party-is-over  She writes Some former colleagues in tech PR and I were talking recently about the “good old days” when nearly every tech launch included a splashy press conference. Today, not so much.  In my book, that’s a good thing. Lavish press conferences… have always struck me as a lazy strategy. But launches have changed

She goes on to list the reasons, such as a changing media landscape, and increassing emphasis on software, consumer tech, startups, and closer oversight of the spend by VCs.

I agree that the tech PR launch is not what it used to be, but at Fusion PR we have stopped thinking about launches as one-shot, Big Bang events long ago. It is for the reasons she lists, but also due to an increasingly noisy media/social media environment in which a burst of coverage is just not as impactful (also, most of our clients are startups – very rarely have they relied on press conferences, even going back to the start of the agency, during the dot-com era when VC dollars and PR fees flowed more freely).

For many of our clients, a launch is not just a debut, it’s a process that occurs over a period of time, and involves a number of related steps. Sure, it may start with a major announcement or unveiling, but rarely is that enough to really launch a company or product.

Also, while her point “software [which is less tangible and visible] trumps hardware” may have been true at one point, this is changing.  What about the all of the excitement and buzz about maker culture (typified by the creativity behind Arduino, Raspberry Pi) Google Nest, wearable tech, 3D printers, connected cars, etc.?

Anyway, Crenshaw’s larger point is well taken, I enjoyed reading it and appreciate the chance to chime in on the changing nature of tech PR launches.

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My Storify Wrap of Economist Big Rethink

Posted by on March 18, 2014 with 0 Comments

Economist Big Rethink Redux

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Economist Big Rethink Redux

I had the pleasure of attending The Economist’s Big Rethink conference in NY last week as a member of the media, after my friend Judy Gombita pulled some strings.

  1. Most of our clients are tech startups; the conference offered a CMO-level view of changes that are rocking the worlds of marketing and digital media. It let me see how the “big boys” do these things. Here were some of the highlights, including my live tweets.
  2. How do we deliver content with value? Start with what fascinates people & demonstrate expertise – Amanda MacKenzie #CMO @Aviva #bigrethink
  3. RT @christalago: Would you pay for Ad free Twitter? If not, do you know the trade you’re making with your data? #BigRethink
  4. “Understanding passion points and interests” is key for brand-consumer connection. @Unilever‘s Project Sunlight is a great eg #BigRethink
  5. Survey of #BigRethink audience: coolest thing brands can do on social: respond directly to user comments and tweets
  6. Make sure @rgeller you listen to @terryoinfluence recent (@cbcradio) show on Viral Videos BEFORE it goes behind the paywall…. #BigRethink

 

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Tips on Autoposting from 3 Experts

Posted by on February 26, 2014 with 0 Comments

Note: This post is an excerpt from my content marketing column on Maximize Social Business

I have a confession to make. I am an autoposter. Auto-posting

Why is this so tough to admit? Auto posting is controversial because it can result in spam if you’re not careful. Social media purists often react badly to any kind of automated posting or engagement. Perhaps they feel that a scheduled tweet is somehow less authentic.

I believe that auto posting (e.g. automating or scheduling updates), and its busy cousin auto-cross-posting (repurposing content across multiple networks) can be great ways to gain content, social media marketing efficiencies and boost results.

When done correctly, you can make the most effective use of original and curated content, and increase output across multiple channels. Do it with a light touch, be smart and you can have your auto posting, and satisfied users and communities too.

In this post I share tips based on research, my own experiences, and input from some of the top experts in the field.

The Mission: Improve Results Across Multiple Channels

Auto posting fits in with other tactics that are designed to boost social media efficiencies and output, like content curation, which I have covered in previous MSB columns. In 9 Surefire Content Promotion and Distribution Tips, I touched on auto posting only briefly, mainly to caution against a lazy and haphazard approach.

As I said at the outset, you need to be careful when auto posting so as not so spam or double up on content, and to make sure that updates are the right format, tone and style for each network/audience. E.g., there are quite a few ways to send your tweets to Facebook or LinkedIn. But are your goals and audiences different for each? And do the hash tags make it obvious that you are just sending your tweets over, without much thought or care?

Duplicate content or crosstalk can result from poor posting rules and methods. E.g. you can set up your WordPress blog to send a tweet when you have a new post; but be careful to avoid simultaneously tweeting the same thing from Buffer or HootSuite.

It can help to pick tools that are extensible and/or offer lots of built-in support for auto and auto-cross-posting. WordPress is open source and has a rich ecosystem of plugins, templates, etc. I have found that it offers more options than TypePad, for example. Driving auto posting from a central blog hub can work if your needs are modest (say, a single blog plus several social channels).

The ideal solution lets a team apply rules – to make sure the right content is going to the right places, from a hub or console – and edit updates and content before they go live, to adjust for each network. The benefits of a central, holistic approach are that you can better avoid crosstalk and be smarter about sharing the right content and updates in the right places.

Experts Chime In

I wanted to learn more. So I sought advice from experts, and asked:

  • If you take necessary precautions and are not just blasting everything everywhere – are there ways to programmatically repurpose content across multiple networks?
  • Bonus points to do this holistically vs. point-to-point – and to distribute original with curated content.
  • Which tools and approaches work best?

Here are their responses. It is interesting to note the differences in outlook, acceptance and approaches.

Neal Schaffer: “Tap new and evergreen content”

Neal Schaffer needs no introduction; however if you are new to this forum and Neal’s work, he runs the Maximize Social Business group blog, and is a social media consultant, author and Forbes Top 50 social media influencer. Here is his response:

“Humans can’t scale, so there is a need to rely on some automation in order to scale your organization and ensure your message becomes part of the conversation. Some avoid automation to the point that they never end up posting at all, which is a disservice to their community as well as themselves.

As far as best practices, I think we should look at two scenarios:

New Content: Auto-posting gives you the ability to ensure that your message is, at a minimum, communicated to your community. Can some people see through that it is automated? Sure. But if it is new content and relevant, I have found social media users to be accepting if done at a minimum of frequency. This can be achieved through a number of tools that can manipulate RSS feeds. My current favorites are HootSuite (which offers broad support for social networks) and PostPlanner (has niche support for Facebook) as well as the WordPress JetPack Publicize plugin.

Evergreen Content: Many companies have content that is evergreen, and considering it’s a best practice to post the same content multiple times in the same network (because we are all looking at different things at different times), tools can be used to ensure that this content is always part of your conversations. Once again, the frequency at which you post evergreen content could become a challenge – as well as ensuring that the content is still relevant today. The only tool that I have found, which I have also become a big fan of here, is SMQueue.”

Robin Good: “Blasting is blasting!”

Robin Good has been writing about news mastering, syndication, curation and collaboration from the earliest days of the Web. His MasterNewMedia blog is one of the top sites for these topics. Robin replied:

“You either automate this process or curate it manually. Yes there is some middle ground, but I think that the best and most fruitful way to repurpose content across different social networks and audiences is by manually customizing for each one.

The middle ground may be in using some tools that relieve and lighten part of this repurposing process, but never in relinquishing to an automated scheme. For example, I can curate a story on Scoop.it, and then repurpose it for Facebook and LinkedIn by rewriting the headline and intro completely, or send it to Twitter by simply adding relevant hash tags to it.

I can use IFTTT to create recipes that help me in automating part of this repurposing and personalization, but certainly at the sacrifice of some spontaneity and genuine communication. Blasting is blasting – see if any of the great journalists or authors ever do it. So a lot depends on the goal: is it “gaining” more eyeballs or clients, or is it about providing valuable info at the right time in a true personal voice?

I actually challenge you to show me any programmatic repurposing of content that doesn’t look automated, and that is evidently better than going the manual way. I’d love to discover that there are ways I am not considering.”

In response to my question about a holistic approach, Robin replied:

“Use a tool that allows you to treat content as an outlet-independent item. You write it once, but then it can go to many different places: websites, newsletters, social media channels, RSS, etc.

A number of tools, including HootSuite, OpenTopic.com or Scoop.it, and many others, allow you to do so, but there is actually a new breed of tools emerging that is designed from the ground up to help you do just that. The prime example of this new breed of content creation and distribution / repurposing tools is Shareist.com. Another one you could take in consideration is Co-Schedule.com.”

Robert Rose: “Yes, but avoid copy and paste shortcuts”

As head of Content Marketing Institute’s end-user client consulting practice, Robert Rose is a noted industry expert and authority who has graciously shared insight for this column a number of times.

Robert and the CMI team counsel some of the world’s biggest brands, so he is very familiar with enterprise scale solutions.

Here is what he said:

“The short answer is, yes, there are ways to programmatically repurpose content across multiple networks. Many modern enterprise WCMS (Web content management systems) will do this for all the owned channels – including social media. Many will even dynamically present this content based on attributes that are appropriate for that particular channel or network. For example, I can write an article for the website, and have the CMS automatically post an abstract to my blog’s right rail, which links to a “short version” on a landing page – with a call-to-action for the “full PDF” after a signup. Simultaneously, it could post a version of that article to Facebook, a tweet to Twitter and so on and so forth. This is the best way to think about content re-use across owned channels – whether or not you use a sophisticated CMS system to do it automatically, or hand-craft it across the same.

There are also ways to automatically repurpose content across various hosted networks as well (I call these rented channels, even though they are not necessarily paid for). These include things like RebelMouse, or Paper.li or those types of things – where I automatically curate and aggregate the various things I’m sending out into the world to create a “portal” into my brand’s particular point of view. This, to me, is interesting and is certainly fairly effortless (as most rentals usually are), but your mileage will definitely vary here.

Finally, on the curation side, there are also tools like PublishThis, where you can use their “light content management tools” to add your brand’s particular (and hopefully unique) point of view. I like this – especially when brands take care to package a number of stories – because it builds a unique content platform that adds an opinion to what would otherwise be just an aggregation of links.

The key in all of this, whether it’s a curated or owned strategy, is that it’s re-purposing not just re-using. Inherent in its name, re-purpose means that the content is altered for a different purpose. So, to the point you very appropriately made, it’s not just copying and pasting – it’s actually taking the time to figure out how the content can be different for an alternate purpose – and then executing that.”

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Filed Under: Best Practices, Social Media, Social Networks, Technology, Tools

PR in The News, by any other Name

Posted by on January 22, 2014 with 0 Comments

Cross-posted on Flack’s Revenge

Awhile back I wrote about the terms that typically surround “public relations” and “publicity” in news reports.  I included a word cloud that showed the prevalence of a dark set of descriptions (e.g. crisis, nightmare, disaster, etc.) As I said then, these words can negatively color the field.

But lately I have noted that there are many types of stories that show the influence of PR without calling it that. Here are a few examples I have in mind:

Charm Offensive

I love this one because it is also an oxymoron.  People, governments or companies generally launch a charm offensive when they want to improve their image.  They arrange interviews and TV appearances, and put on their best behavior, as a way of saying to the public “Hey folks! I’m really not that bad, am I?”

Who are leading charm offenders these days? A search of the phrase on Google News showed Vladimir Putin, China and North Korea at the top of the list (see the word cloud illustration).

CharmOffensive

Control of Narrative

Let’s face it, if you want PR, it is much better to have a narrative – that is, a story that the public knows and cares about (or carefully crafted image, as some might cynically say) – than to be unknown.  The danger is to lose control of one’s narrative.  Here, I am thinking of Chris Christie and Justin Bieber, two obvious and timely examples.

Michael Wolff wrote a good story on this for USA Today:The Importance of ‘Controlling the Narrative’.

Publicity Stunts and Events

Actually, here’s another: most in the media would not want to admit interest in events that are clearly contrived for publicity purposes; yet some stunts can offer an all-too-tempting muse for busy reporters who need to fill white space, sometimes they just can’t resist.

Here’s a cool example that should resonate in tech PR circles; TheNextWeb covered chip vendor Nvidea’s launch of a new processor, that was cleverly communicated via an event: the creation of a crop circle that helped illustrate the chip and its benefits.

 

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Filed Under: PR

Messaging for PR and Social Media Success

Posted by on January 10, 2014 with 0 Comments

Cross Posted on Flack’s Revenge

We’re all familiar with the jokes that list three identical things as a punch line (e.g. “location, location, Mind_control4location” for factors driving real estate value, or “money-driven, money-driven, money-driven” as the three most important qualities of a salesperson; by the way I blew a job interview much earlier in my carreer by missing this last one).

As it turns out, three is an important number – and not just in jokes.  Here at Fusion PR, we have often evangelized about the power of three in communications.  We tell clients that key messages should be crafted and organized ino three concise statements.  The same three messages should be used in three places (at the beginning of the interview, the end, and in the middle).

It might sound boring and repetitive; but, as it turns out, there is a scientific basis for the power of three in rhetoric.  The New York Times wrote last week about the conclusions of a new study:

The world assigns the number three elevated status..Oddly, scant academic research explains the triad’s sway over our lives or the ads we see. But a new study finds that in ads, stump speeches and other messages understood to have manipulative intent, three claims will persuade, but four (or more) will trigger skepticism, and reverse an initially positive impression.

Hmmm… manipulative intent… moir? I don’t recall seeing many other articles about persuasion in PR and marketing, and that could be because we feel we are above this; after all we are not just peddlers and spinmeisters, right?  But let’s face it; persuasion is a key part of what we do. Sure, we inform and educate,but we also seek to persuade; e.g. to get users to click on a link, come to an event, check out a trial offer, or that a certain product or service is a good one.

I was reminded of this when I read an earlier NY Times article about the art of rhetoric, or communicating to persuade.  It cites some examples from the world of politics, and included a bit of wisdom about writing that I would love to share:

If a piece of writing feels like a unit, it lends its argument an impression, however spurious, of coherence. The more each clause or sentence relates to those around it, whether in parallel or counterpoint, intellectually or musically, the more it will feel like an organic whole. Syntax can do much of the work of sense.

This article also touched on the power of three:

The tricolon, putting phrases into groups of three, is perennially effective… Lists, in general, work well. Try enumeratio: setting out your points one by one, to give the impression of clarity and command.  Music matters, too. The effects of the tricolon, as of any number of other figures, are in some ways metrical. Think of how clusters of stressed syllables can sound resolute and determined. “Yes we can!” is three strong syllables… One of the most memorable lines in American history, for instance, is the clause in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” That, among other things, is an example of iambic pentameter… Rhetoric… is about patterns and echoes and resonances.

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Does Social Media Change How to Launch News? Ask Beyonce’

Posted by on December 18, 2013 with 0 Comments

beyonce-surprise-album

Cross-posted from Flacks’s Revenge

Beyoncé schooled the music world with the release of her new record, announced with a simple one word “Surprise!” (the caption of the Instagram video that she shared with her 8M followers).  It was the social media update heard around the world, led to record tweets and sales in short order, and some to wonder whether music promotion would ever be the same.

The NY Times wrote:

The release of a blockbuster album has historically come with a few standard marketing moves. Flood the radio with an early single. Book as many TV appearances as possible. Line up partnerships with big retailers and consumer brands.

The stealth rollout of the album, “Beyoncé,” upended the music industry’s conventional wisdom…

In bypassing the industry’s traditional promotional machinery, she demonstrated social media’s power to amplify news and to forge a direct connection to her audience…. [It] showed the marketing value of no marketing.

What does the episode mean for the future of PR and marketing? For starters, it is likely to add to the debate about the continued relevance of press releases, PR and even media in launches and other promotions. After all, why go through the bother of conducting an elaborate PR campaign and winning over the media when you can forge such a direct connection and rally your customers to action via social media?

If you work in tech PR, however, as I do, then I would be careful about such knee jerk reactions. Most tech companies (especially B2B) don’t have legions of rabid fans that are hanging on every move and desperate for new product.  In the tech PR world, the goal is often to communicate with audiences beyond customers, including channel partners, influencers, job seekers and investors.

Earning media and influencer validation through PR can help pave the way to the adoption of tech.

I do think a good lesson for the tech crowd and other industries is to be open to innovative ways of sharing and breaking news.

Stay tuned to this blog, I will be writing much more about this in the coming weeks

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