Thursday, 30 July 2015

How to Use an Offer to Gain Great Publicity

Gary Frisch, public relations professional and founder of Swordfish Communications, explains how a well-timed initiative to give back can yield results with little or no investment. Follow Gary on Twitter: @gfrisch

“Leave it to a public relations agency to make a good PR move.”

That’s what NBC10, the Philadelphia NBC affiliate, wrote in covering some news I recently put out for my agency. I offered free PR services to any retailer selling an absurd handgun-shaped iPhone case, contingent on them halting sales of the product.  The story was picked up by a handful of media outlets.

Last year, I wrote here about the power of “newsjacking” and this is a good example of it. Newsjacking, as a reminder, is speedily jumping on something the media is already talking about to get attention for your client or organization. Often it’s tongue-in-cheek, and pop-culture related. In this case, the news release and social media posts went out the afternoon that this product went ballistic, online and off, after a New Jersey prosecutor strongly urged the public to avoid it.

But this case illustrates another technique I like to use, and which PR professionals might like to keep in their hip pockets: call it The Power of the Offer. Ideally, it goes hand-in-hand with newsjacking, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. A form of corporate social responsibility, it invariably offers much upside, with little downside in the way of investment.

Here’s an example.  In 2014, Fox29 in Philadelphia reported on a hearing-impaired boy who set up a lemonade stand so his family could buy him hearing aids. Representing a hearing aid franchise at the time, I tweeted to the reporter that my client wanted to donate a pair of aids. Cash donations flowed in as a result of the initial publicity, and the station ran an updated story including my client’s good gesture. In the end, because the boy had some underlying ear issues that couldn’t be resolved simply by a new pair of aids, the parents opted to pursue a course of treatment they’d begun with a local children’s hospital, so never took us up on the offer. Nonetheless, for what would have been an investment of about $750, my client appeared to be a concerned corporate citizen.

Or consider the case of Coatings for Industry (CFI), a client that makes decorative, non-slip and anti-graffiti coatings for commercial floors and other surfaces. After Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc up and down the Mid-Atlantic, CFI wanted to donate coatings for rebuilding efforts, particularly for flooded institutions like museums, libraries, town halls, or even boardwalks (the damaged New York Aquarium, pictured above, was one such facility). We issued a press release and offered the coatings through social media, and my company reached out directly to hard-hit municipalities. Maybe because they were overwhelmed at the time, or besieged with similar offers, we never got so much as a return call, let alone a request for product. That fact itself became fodder for a second press release, which was picked up by several coatings industry media.
Again, good intentions resulted in good press, despite no actual investment.

Sometimes, the offer might be more complex, and require greater commitment and hence, more thought. In 2010, a dementia-afflicted woman was found wandering the streets of Philadelphia with no identification and no obvious hints as to the whereabouts of family. The local media widely reported it, in the hope someone would come forward to claim her. I told my client, a small health and rehabilitation chain with a dementia unit, I had a “wild” idea. Why not publicly offer to take her in and care for her until a relative could be found? I thought it would make a good second-day story, and the additional publicity would hasten her identification.
Sadly, the managing director rejected the idea, citing the extreme cost of providing indefinite care for the woman. I even began questioning the wisdom of suggesting it. Two days later, a relative recognized the woman from news reports, and brought her home. I felt vindicated; had my client jumped on this, it would have received widespread press and the patient would have barely been settled in by the time she was claimed. There were no guarantees, of course, but I suspected that would be the case.

I’m not saying you should jump on opportunities and wring your hands hoping no one bites. At all times, these initiatives should spring from your heart or social consciousness; any resulting publicity should be considered a pleasant result, not the primary goal. And you need to always be prepared to back up your promise with action. In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew. But more often than not, due to human nature, inertia or corporate ennui, offers like these are met with crickets.

The gun-grip phone case has no useful purpose. It will likely get someone killed, most likely by police. I do hope Swordfish has the opportunity to help retailers save face and generate good press by doing the right thing and pulling it from their shelves. So far, a few weeks after my offer made the news, exactly zero have contacted me.

This article originally appeared in the Bulldog Reporter Daily ‘Dog blog.

Gary Frisch is founder and president of Swordfish Communications, a full-service public relations agency in Laurel Springs, N.J. Visit Swordfish online at

Why one size does not fit all in PR measurement

Arleigh Galant-Vasconcellos has put together some reasons as to why one size does not fit all in when measuring PR for PR Daily. Follow PR Daily on Twitter: @PRDaily

Public Relations is a service.

For many industries, services can be measured and return on investment can be easily quantified. This is not the case with PR. PR measurement has become a point of contention even to those within our industry.

The PR landscape is quickly changing, leading many communications professionals to call for the death of "ad value equivalency" (AVE). They say it is no longer relevant or accurate when it comes to actually giving value to media outcomes. What is frustrating is that they stop short of offering a new solution, or they offer intensive measurement processes that completely bypasses that time spent on measurement means time away from pursuing PR opportunities.

In the days of print, TV and radio, when I started my career in the industry, AVE was pretty much the main performance indicator for PR. AVE was about as straightforward as you could get. However, there is still much debate about how much more value should be given to editorial space over advertising space. Some say it’s three times more valuable, and some say it’s up to five times more valuable depending on the outlet. This divide has weakened AVE in the eyes of some professionals as an effective metric because there is no one way to calculate it.

How else can we prove the worth of our work without getting stuck in a huge time sink (which if you’re agency side, your clients are rarely willing to pay for)? I still think that AVE is a decent metric for PR, but it isn't the only metric. As I’ve learned over the years in dealing with various executives, they understand dollars and numbers. They like it when we are able to quantify our work in their terms. Thus, when relevant, we still need to be able to put a dollar sign on the outcome of our work.

Perhaps it is time to consider a straight-up comparison: What’s the cost versus expense of the two scenarios below? Paying $20,000 for advertising (which doesn’t include the budget and time you still need to spend with designers, consultants and writers), versus paying $20,000 for the time of a PR professional to gain earned media coverage. Which comes out to more in the end? I’ll let you do the math. If a chief financial officer sees that the company pays, for example, $60,000 per year in PR, but they earn $100,000 worth of good will and good messaging about their company to their target audiences, not through advertising but in write-ups in relevant outlets, to them, that makes sense.

Before I seem too old school, let me be very clear. AVE isn’t the end-all, be-all metric of our work.
You must look at shares, social engagement, page views (if the publication offers it), etc. to see if it was effective. If it wasn't then it's time to tweak your messaging. You must also read all of your coverage and audience engagement messages to see if they are positive or negative, to again ensure the story you are telling is accurate and that it resonates with your target audience.

As many industry professionals know, media relations is only a small part of the equation in the greater scheme of a public relations and communications strategy. Now that most media is consumed online, and especially via social media, we have even more chances for coverage, and therefore more avenues to measure. AVE is applicable to relevant online media, but not to social media. But if you aren’t measuring social media, you would be ignoring a big part of your outcomes, which is why it has been included in the Barcelona Principles.

The most important aspect to remember about measuring PR is that there is no one-size-fits-all method out there. You must find that hybrid that works for specific clients or projects. For example, in-house PR professionals working with product developers may value user engagement and feedback more than media coverage. But then maybe they value media coverage more because it will lead new users to their product.
There have been startups touting how they have been able to measure PR based solely on their algorithms. I believe the reason there haven’t been any true winners in this field is because PR measurement isn’t as black-and-white as they claim. Don’t get me wrong. There are some good PR measurement startups that are doing an effective job at providing data on specific parts of PR engagement, especially in social media and social sharing, but I haven’t seen one clear algorithm that’s found a one-stop, all-encompassing PR metric yet.
One place that has offered solid, doable advice for PR measurement was the latest white paper from Cision called "How to Replace AVE for Modern PR Measurement." While the title is a bit sensationalist, the tip sheet offers a good overview of what you can do to “implement a metrics-driven program,” which PR professionals can use and tailor to their specific projects and clients.

You should have a targeted engagement strategy for each client/project, so your measurement should change accordingly. For example, we can’t measure our PR efforts for our oil and gas clients in the exact same way that we measure our efforts for our communication technology clients.

The true measure of a successful PR program is: have you reached your targeted audience with your key messaging, and are they engaging positively with you and your brand? If you can answer this question with a "yes," then congratulations. You’ve not only put together and run a solid strategic PR campaign, you’ve figured out the right hybrid mix of tools to effectively measure your successes.

How Snapchat compares with other social platforms

The Hub Staff has compiled a summary for PR Week about how Snapchat currently compares with other social media platforms.  Follow PR Week on Twitter: @prweek

It’s hard to predict Snapchat’s future by looking at statistics four years after its launch. While it’s interesting to compare its growth with the first four years of other major social platforms, it’s important to remember that it was harder to attract social media users in the early days of the phenomenon.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

8 ways blogging can build your startup's brand

Martin Zwilling has compiled a list of reasons for PR Daily about why he recommends that start-up businesses should blog to build their brand. Follow PR Daily on Twitter: @PRDaily

As the number of sites on the Internet floats around one billion, the challenge with every new startup is to be found and stand out. 

More importantly, if someone does find your site, the content better be enticing enough for them to come back. Blogging is one of the best ways to do this and build a brand, even before you have a product or service.

In this age of relationships, you, the entrepreneur, are a very important element of your new brand. It’s never too early to start marketing the value of your expertise, insights and ideas. A great solution is necessary, but not sufficient, to build a great startup.

I recommend that every entrepreneur start blogging in parallel with solution development for the following benefits:

1. Get customer feedback before you commit resources. 

Every entrepreneur should count on at least a couple of adjustments or pivots before they get it right.
The challenge is to spend minimal time and money learning. After a few blogs about your concept, the comments better match your passion, or it’s time to rethink your idea.
2. Improve your site search engine ranking. 

New and relevant content on a regular basis is a major driver in search engine optimization, as well as the inbound and outbound links that blog comments generate.

If you post on industry sites, or get syndicated to popular sites, your scores and visibility will go up even more.

3. Develop an efficient and effective writing style. 

A good blog is a short and tightly written message, which is key to every business communication.

I see too many investor pitches, and even executive summaries that ramble on for many pages without a clear message. Practice makes perfect, and feedback will tell you quickly if you are on target.

4. Let that ideal co-founder find you. 

Blogs are a great way for potential business partners to find each other and build a social media relationship before getting into the hard negotiations of who gets how much.

Your reach with a blog is much broader than traditional business networking channels and industry conferences.

5. Demonstrate thought leadership to potential employees. 

In small companies and startups, people seek out leaders they want to work for, in lieu of a big company with more job security. From your perspective, you want team members who are taking the initiative to stay current by seeking out new ideas and leaders from blogs on the Internet.
6. Start building your customer community early. 

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, but marketing is all about building excitement and suspense.
It is never too early to start collecting leads and building a brand. You may even find alternate revenue streams, including speaking engagements and consulting, to bridge the gap to product rollout.

7. Take the first step to full use of social media marketing. 

Every blog entry needs promotion through social media, so you will learn how to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other websites.

From there, it’s a short step to podcasting, YouTube videos and Instagram. Customers these days expect to find your information where they are, not where you are.

8. Establish visibility and attract funding sources. 

Be assured that the best investors are actively scanning blogs for new entrepreneurs and new ideas.
It’s far more satisfying and fruitful to be approached by potential investors, rather than cold-calling a list of people who never heard of you. Investors invest in people as much as the idea.

All of this is possible on every entrepreneur’s budget, since the major blogging platforms, including Tumblr, WordPress and Blogger (Google) are free.

Each can be linked directly into your site domain name for maximum SEO impact. WordPress can also provide a simple base website through static pages, eliminating standard site hosting fees.

Never forget that blogging is most effective for “pull marketing,” and should never be used push your product. If you provide value to your audience, they will be pulled to you and your website for related solutions. That’s a win-win situation for you and your customers, and puts you head and shoulders above the crowd. Start today.

5 ‘fringe’ social media platforms for brands & PRs

There are so many social networks out there, but how do you decide which ones to spend your time on? PR Daily’s Kevan Lee has put together a guide and five “fringe” social networks to help you. Follow PR Daily on Twitter: @PRDaily 

Tips for choosing a social network
Choose the social networks that best fit your strategy and the goals you want to achieve on social media. You don’t have to be on them all—just the ones that matter to you and your audience.
Here are a few factors to consider:
  • Time. How much time can you devote to a social network? Plan on at least an hour per day per social network, though tools such as Buffer can save time.
  • Resources. What personnel and skills do you have to work with, and do you have the resources to create what’s needed?
  • Knowledge. What will be the learning curve for you for a given social network?
  • Your audience. Where do your potential customers hang out?
This last one is likely to be quite important as you consider the social networks beyond the largest social media platforms. If your audience is spending its time on a fringe social network, it might be appealing for you to be there, too.

How to tell whether your audience is on a particular social network
To determine where your audience hangs out on social media, you can look for a number of signals. Do you hear about a certain social network quite often? If so, it’s probably because those you are close to—your audience, in most cases—is talking about it.

Beyond intuition, here are specific signals that could lead you where your audience is hanging out.

1. Check the referral traffic from social to your website.
In your Google Analytics reports, select Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals and see all the traffic that has come to your site from the various social networks.

Does a certain network seem to send you a bunch of traffic? That could signal that a portion of your audience hangs out there.

2. Notice the social networks of the people who email you.
If you run your small business or manage your brand through your inbox, you’re likely to receive a lot of emails from your audience.

There are tools that help provide extra insights into your email contacts, particularly the social networks they frequent.

The screengrab above is from Sidekick, and you can see clearly which social networks this person belongs to. Other contacts tools to check out are FullContact and Vibe.
3. Study the demographics of the networks.
You’ve probably got a great idea of the makeup of your audience. If you can match that understanding to some up-and-coming social networks, you might spot opportunities to connect.

Demographic information tends to come out sporadically, when a website performs a study or a social network makes a public announcement. Pew Research Center, TechCrunchStatista and DMR are my favorite sources for this information.

Though you should choose the social networks that suit you best, reserve your username on every social network, even if you’re not sure you’ll ever spend time there.

Doing so helps keep these spots on hold for you if your strategy changes or a network gets quite popular. It also helps protect your brand from others who may impersonate you or establish a voice and tone that you’d prefer they didn’t.

To find out which spots still have your username available, use Knowem, which checks the major 25 social networks to see what’s available.

“Fringe” social networks
Don’t look only to large social media platforms for your brand’s PR and marketing strategy. Here are five smaller social websites and apps to consider:

Snapchat is a messaging app in which text, photos and videos will disappear one to 10 seconds after the recipient opens them. Of its 200 million users, 71 percent are under age 25.

Snapchat is one of the fastest-growing social networks among the 25-and-under crowd . There’s a lot to like for young people—the network is new enough that it’s yet to see large adoption from parents or brands, and the temporary nature of the content is appealing to many.

That’s not to say that businesses can’t succeed on Snapchat. Though content disappears after a short time, users can take a screenshot of what they like, allowing some content to endure elsewhere. Snapchat has encouraged brand involvement with the release of Snapchat Discover, a story tool for editorial brands.
One fun way that brands use Snapchat is to annotate the images with drawings and doodles. Here’s an example from the NBA:

Recommended for: those who focus on a young audience, 25 and under.

Vine is a mobile, video-sharing service built by Twitter, where users create and share six-second videos. Of its 40 million users, 57 percent are women.

The connection between Twitter and Vine is tight. Vine videos can be shared easily to Twitter, and they embed quite smoothly into a Twitter stream. The audiences most primed to consume Vines spend time on Twitter or Tumblr, two of the best short-form networks.

Brands have found creative ways to use Vine, creating smart how-to videos and short films. One great example is this fun video from Dunkin Donuts, reimagining a highlight from that night’s NFL game.

See more fun examples here.

Recommended for: those with a large following on Twitter, or those whose content fits a six-second format well (how-to videos, comedy, memes).


Tumblr is a microblogging platform where users can post text or multimedia—images, GIFs, video—to a short-form blog. Roughly 230 million people use Tumblr each month, and 50 percent of its users are 18 to 34 years old.

Tumblr appeals to people who enjoy sharing snippets of what they find interesting or amusing. Brand managers can find value in the short-form nature of Tumblr, as it’s quite easy to publish any small thing—a quote, a photo, a video—that comes to mind.

You can use Tumblr as a WordPress alternative, too. People can follow your blog, adding your posts automatically to their Tumblr dashboards, and users can “like” or repost any content on your page.
A great example that comes to mind is Penguin Random House, which shares all sorts of fun, short-form book posts.

Recommended for: highly visual brands; those with a young audience or whose content lends itself well to images, GIFs, video; those who have enough unique short-form content to support a Tumblr blog in addition to a main blog.

Vimeo is a video-sharing website with a community of filmmakers and video professionals. The platform has 170 million monthly active users.

Similar to YouTube in almost every way—social sharing, embedding on a website—Vimeo has carved out a niche with its clean, smooth interface. It’s focused on the viewing experience itself, warranting its popularity among video professionals.

[RELATED: Learn how to create superb visuals at our conference in Washington, D.C.]
Patagonia has a great presence on Vimeo, where it shares wonderfully produced videos.

Recommended for: filmmakers and video professionals; those with big, beautiful HD videos and audiences who care deeply about user experience.

Quora is a question-and-answer website; the questions and answers all come from a community of 2.9 million active users.

Great conversations take place on Quora, and it’s easy to address questions that involve your brand or your industry. Sharing expertise is a great way to be active on Quora. You can also write content directly into its publishing tools, which is a neat way to repurpose existing blog posts or articles.

We’ve found Quora to be particularly useful when questions surface about Buffer’s history or culture. Joel or Leo can hop in directly and contribute their expertise to the thread, and we can monitor topics and keywords to stay aware when these conversations occur.

Recommended for: those who would like to contribute to the conversation about their niche or brand.