We are now a couple of weeks into 2018. Like nearly every year before, so much changed in 2017 and yet, not really. The media landscape continued to evolve: newsrooms sadly continued to shrink, the written word made way for more and more video and the bar continues to rise on what reporters are willing to cover.
In 2017, this was all further emphasized by the tumultuous US political climate, which caused the blinding national and international spotlights to be cast upon media organizations, how they are reporting on stories and whether or not they are "fake news." The increased pressure placed on journalists trickled down to more pressure on PR professionals and the businesses they represent to communicate more clearly and in a more immediate fashion. PR became even more important and influential within individual businesses as a result.
We asked several PR professionals what changed in 2017 so we can look to improve upon how we can all approach PR and the media in 2018. Here's what they had to say:
"I think truth is more important than ever."
"I think the most pressing issue now is the whole “fake news” problem. Ignoring the huge political and social problems created when we undermine any possible independent agency that might question those in power, this is an enormous challenge for PR/communications. Where do you take your stories? How do you deal with it if someone cries “fake news” — which these days, is instantly believed?"
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, suffering from holiday withdrawals, you have probably seen or heard something about The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that started in Las Vegas over the weekend. This annual conference and exposition gives companies of all sizes the opportunity to show off their latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos to an international audience of hundreds of thousands. But over the last few years, it has continued to grow, expanding beyond its original "consumer electronics" scope to include pretty much anyone and everything somewhat related to technology.
CES is a big show for anyone touching technology, especially journalists and PR professionals. And with thousands of journalists, editors and analysts on the show floor, as well as the amount of time, money and energy spent to exhibit, speak and just attend the show, companies and their leadership rightfully want to see healthy returns on their investment.
This is the question that occurs not only around CES but with all major conferences: is it worth attending? And more importantly, is it worth making our big company announcements at the show?
The answer to these two questions, from a PR perspective, varies widely. There are a lot of variables to consider as you make these decisions, especially when there is so much time, money and energy at stake. Here are a couple of things to consider:
Again, every company, announcement and conference is different, so it is important for the team to come together and understand what the company's objectives are in advance of committing to a full PR campaign centered around an industry conference. Sometimes it is totally worth the effort, but not every time.
A new year means a fresh start, which can be both exciting and nerve-racking. It is like a fresh sheet of paper -- clean, undisturbed and full of possibility yet daunting, as that first mark/letter/word can direct the where everything goes from there.
While PR programs can and should be continuous from day to day, month to month, year to year, giving your team the opportunity to review and reset with the beginning of the year is important. We all tend to make resolutions with the beginning of the year, why not make some for your PR program?
Here are a few ideas and suggestions for possible PR resolutions for 2018:
Set realistic goals. This one can be tough as we all can get eager and overly ambitious on what is possible but in order to keep morale and energy high across the team and leadership, it is important to get expectations at the beginning of the year.
This doesn't mean you should sandbag your KPIs, but rather look at what can reasonably be accomplished with your current staffing scenario, budgets and other resources. It is also important to set a few stretch goals alongside what you think it totally possible. How can you and your team go above and beyond if the stars align?
What are your resolutions for 2018?
It's November 1. How did we get here already?!
The year has flown by but rather than panic about what has yet to be done, it is important to focus on what can be accomplished with the remaining two months of the year as well as what can be prepared for the year to come!
July. Yes, we are now over halfway through 2017.
Frightening, isn't it?
Where has the time gone? With most communications programs, it usually has been taken up by reactive and urgent projects. Occasionally, you are able to sprinkle in a few proactive and long-lead activities if you are lucky.
Regardless of where your time has gone so far, it is important to reflect and prepare. Similarly to how you need to prepare for the upcoming year, take stock in what's working (and what's not) and adjust accordingly.
A few things to think about: Have any of the themes and priorities changed for the business as a whole or an individual segment? Have any of the stakeholders changed? Has the product roadmap or merger/acquisition strategy shifted at all?
What's going on with the competition? Have there been any major shifts or milestones in the industry?
What's important for customers and partners at this stage in the year? Have their priorities changed at all? Are your messages resonating with prospects?
While consistency is important in any communications program, there is no point in continuing messaging or campaigns that keep the team spinning without true results or just don't resonate. Take the rest of the summer to reflect and adjust the program for the remainder of the year.
Content is king. No one disputes that.
There are more than 1.2 billion websites on the internet (and counting). YouTube currently reaches 1.5 billion users each month and their users consume roughly an hour of videos per day. More than 300 million tweets and 2.2 million blog posts have published today alone. Snapchatters watch more than 10 billion videos per day.
But with so much content out there -- from articles and video to infographics and social media -- how do you get your content to stand out from the rest?
Mike Isaac of The New York Times made a few good points the other day on Twitter about blog posts.
This same perspective can be used across pretty much all platforms -- social media, blogs, press releases, videos, infographics, etc.
We need to start being more thoughtful about the content we are producing and publishing. Yes, an announcement might be important to us as a company or to a partner or customer, but we need to acknowledge who our target audience really is and what channels are most appropriate to reach that audience.
Maybe a Tweet, Medium post or short post on the company blog is sufficient to get the news out to a particular audience this time. There might be another time where it does make more sense to push a stronger communications strategy including embargoes or exclusives. But we need to set expectations.
Reporters, just like our customers, partners and investors, are all inundated with content throughout the day. We need to cherry pick the right moments to share information that is relevant to them. They will appreciate the information -- and the company -- much more for it!
To have the most success with your PR team, you need to communicate with them.
This may seem like common sense when said out loud or written down, but then again, common sense isn't necessarily common.
Communication is critical to any successful communications program. The team needs to know what is going on with the company, products, customers, partners, leadership, etc. They need to be aware of both the positive and the potentially negative. Believe it or not, PR professionals are not mind readers nor can we create press coverage with a snap of our fingers.
To get the biggest bang for your buck on a positive announcement or to help prepare for any negative new cycles, the team needs to be given a heads up well in advance when possible. The whole "need to know basis" approach helps no one if your communications team isn't in the loop. Now, it doesn't have to be the whole PR team but at least someone from the team should be aware of what is going on.
Schedule weekly check-ins with your PR team to ensure that everyone is on the same page about hot topics, worry basket issues, the latest on product announcements, customers wins, etc. The more information the communications team has and the sooner it gets the details, the more prepared and successful they can be when it comes time to make an announcement.
Always be prepared. Always communicate with your PR team.
We all want press coverage. That's just natural.
But as we've discussed here before, not all press coverage is good. And not all press coverage will drive your overall business objectives. Which is why it is absolutely critical to be strategic on where you and your team invest time and resources as it pertains to media relations.
As a small start-up (and this can be the case for larger organizations too), your reaction may be to take any and all inbound press opportunities. But it is important to ask yourself what impact that story could have on the business.
Is that outlet's audience our target customer demographic? Do our investors read that publication regularly? How has that blog covered our industry and competitors in the past?
Not only complete the due diligence on all inbound press inquiries to make sure they are worth your communications and leadership teams' time, but also do some proactive research to ensure your teams are on the same page around priorities.
What outlets are "must-haves," meaning they cover your industry and competitors regularly and are a must-read for your customers, partners and investors? What publications would be "nice to have," meaning they are stretch goals for the business either because they are top-tier (and everyone wants a mention), tend to cover just outside your industry, or cover a very wide range of topics?
Create your lists and then work backwards on what storylines might work for those particular publications and what pieces of the puzzle (metrics, customer testimonials, third party research, etc.) you might need to place the right story.
But do your research and make sure story opportunities are going to help drive your business objectives, not just get a story for the sake of getting a story.
It's everywhere. And it's at the forefront of many conversations these days.
But there are different ways to gather, analyze and distribute this data -- and, depending on your industry and audience, some approaches might be better than others.
In traditional enterprise settings, analyst firms like Gartner, Forrester and IDC tend to still dominate the third-party research arena, while on the consumer side, organizations like Omnibus have been the go-to to help create quick data points. Each of these can be expensive and time-consuming.
So are they worth it? It, honestly, depends.
In some cases there are cheaper, more DIY alternatives, but it ultimately depends on several factors including your audience and what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes a quick SurveyMonkey survey will do the trick but in others, having an independent, unbiased research team engaged provides more legitimacy to the project.
Regardless of your approach, it is important to be transparent. If you are sharing data points and survey results with members of the press, clearly explain your methodology and whether you sponsored the report. Just like with their regular reporting, journalists will come to their own conclusions and share their perspective with their readers accordingly (remember... this is earned media, not advertising).
Many people in the marketing and communications world have heard the acronym PESO (paid, earned, shared/social, owned) to talk about the different types of media out there in the world today. For this particular article, we are going to talk about the first two since they are so very often viewed as interchangeable by people both inside and out of the industry, resulting in lots of frustration and miscommunication around results.
While they work well together, paid and earned media are still separate entities. Many online news outlets, in order to bolster revenue, have been incorporating paid media outside of the traditional banner ads -- sponsored content, native advertising and/or advertorials -- on to their sites, making it difficult for readers to tell the difference between what was written by their staff and what was paid for and placed by a sponsor. In some cases, contributed articles can be viewed as paid media but that has started causing a backlash by editorial teams who want to ensure that their readers are getting expert opinions on timely topics, not just a self-serving corporate message.
Earned media centers around your traditional articles, Q&As and profile pieces, written by a journalist from their perspective after speaking with a variety of sources and experts. Unlike paid media, where you know when, where and what will be published, earned media is at the discretion of the journalist and his/her editor. Unless there are factual inaccuracies, stories are rarely adjusted. This is why is it "earned" media -- it is critical for your communications team to build the relationships with reporters and clearly understand what the story is about.
If it is a proactive pitch to a reporter, collecting all of the pieces of your ideal story in advance -- spokespeople, messages, data, external sources, etc. -- is vital. But even then, journalists have their own sources and views on various topics so their written words may not be exactly what you and your team were envisioning.
They could be worse -- or they could be even better. This is the gamble you take with earned media. If you aren't willing to take the risk, you and your team might be better off focusing resources on the other pieces of PESO.
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.