Generating publicity is quite easy.
If the stories you have to share are worthy of space in publications and programmes that have easy access to more content than ever; are up-to-the-second new; are easy to understand for those that have no knowledge of technical background of the story; can make a difference in average people's lives; easily forms part of the news cycle; and is supported by trusted relationships with journalists and editors, then generating publicity is easy.
So let me restate the first line ... generating publicity is quite easy ... if you have the time to spend on it.
Generating publicity, or making sure you take care of the earned media part of your integrated marketing plan, is however still one of the best ways to spread the word about your organisation, its products, services and activities. A steady stream of great editorial content published on platforms read and listened to by your potential customers helps immensely in shortening your sales cycle.
Here are a few tips to help you get started without breaking the bank:
Don't set your expectations sky-high; rather aim for one great piece published in a publication, or one fantastic conversation on a broadcast programme that you know reaches your target audience.
Do your homework
One of the easiest ways to do this is to read the publication or listen to the programme yourself. This sounds quite obvious, but it is the number one oversight.
Listen and learn
Identify the type of stories that are published on the chosen platforms, and figure out which of your stories are the best fit. Another way to go about it is to contact the journalist or presenter and ask them what type of stories they prefer to publish.
Create valuable content
Newsrooms are incredibly busy, and prefer to receive content that conforms to their requirements. This means content submitted for editorial consideration should be written with facts as the focal point, and should not contain your marketing or sales messages.
Remember, journalists are tasked with informing the general public on issues that have an impact on their lives; your content should reflect and understanding of this.
Also keep in mind that photos submitted must be high resolution, and that you should obtain approval from every person quoted in the content before you send it to the media.
Journalists are people, and they like dealing with people, not representatives. They are however very pressured for time, so will not necessarily want to attend a lengthy introduction meeting or event. Communicate with journalists with the aim of helping them, not selling to them.
Know the difference between important and newsworthy
Many people find it difficult to distinguish the difference between news that is important to those already familiar with the organisation, and news that is worthy of editorial publicity. Make sure that the content you send to a journalist is current, relevant, and can make a difference to the lives of readers/listeners.
Don't worry, you can still use your important news to build your reputation by publishing it via your paid, shared or owned platforms.
Keep your ear on the ground
Make sure that you find out whether your content was used. Journalists are usually too pressured to help you with this, so try to use tools like Google Alerts, paid-for media monitoring tools, or even just by reading and listening to the publications you submitted your content to.
If you need more guidance, or simply don't have the time to follow all of these steps on a regular basis, give us a shout to see if we can help.
Continuous improvement poses a huge problem for perfectionists because it means admitting and accepting imperfections.
It is however only with accepting that perfection is an illusion, that it becomes easier to shift the focus from perfection to progress.
Continuous improvement also waves red flags for those uncomfortable with change as it demands adaptation in the name of desired advances.
There is some comfort when the word "continuous" is swapped for "continual" which, according to the ever-clever Wikipedia is more technically accurate.
"In English-language linguistic prescription there is a common piece of usage advice that the word "continuous" should be used for things that are continuous in a way literally or figuratively equal to the mathematical sense of the word, whereas the word "continual" should be used for things that continue in discrete jumps (that is, quantum-wise). When this distinction is enforced, it is more accurate to speak of "continual improvement" and "continual improvement processes" than of "continuous improvement" or "continuous improvement processes"."
My understanding of this distinction is that never-ending improvement attempts result in intermittent improvement results. From a change perspective there is therefore some time to get used to an improved result, but not much, as the concept of continuous improvement implies an implicit discomfort with the status quo, which is usually a trait shared by perfectionists.
Call it a drive for perfection, or striving for continual improvement is a matter of semantics. What matters is that the energy invested in shaping up areas of improvement is focused on areas that will return tangible results.
For us, these areas are grouped under the four principles of our methodology:
We've recently changed news monitoring service providers for various reasons, one of which was an integration of social media results with traditional media results and a larger spread of online platforms that is monitored.
We also make a concerted effort to keep our ears to the ground for news relevant to our clients' focus areas, as well as the industries they serve.
Through listening we learn an incredible amount, and part of the learning is taking the information that is available and translating it into terms that can be easily understood by those that are unfamiliar with the more technical concepts of the subject matter.
We also continuously learn about our own industry and craft, and recently attended a fantastic writing workshop which highlighted a number of areas of improvement relating to the content we create.
We will also be attending the Integrated Marketing Conference in November to enable us to determine which skills we should add to our toolbox. According to what we've learned so far, video will surpass text in the very near future, while producing mobile-friendly content is already of extreme importance.
More information clutter, more PR practitioners, and less eyes available to receive and read content contributions demand that any messages created by brands for distribution to media stick very closely to individual newsroom guidelines and requirements.
Content that delivers lightning-fast, in-depth comment on current affairs remain popular, followed by easy-to-read pieces offering practical advice on issues that impact readers and listeners on a regular basis.
Thought leadership pieces are still used, but are reserved for specific features and editions, and therefore do not generate a large amount of publicity ... except of course when on a very controversial issue.
Distribution tactics for each of these type of pieces vary quite a bit, and we're pleased to report that we are seeing success from changes we've recently implemented in both our creation and distribution focus areas.
The size decline, juniorisation and resource sharing of newsrooms has forced us to move away from traditionally accepted mass distribution tactics. Exclusive pieces, personal relationships with a large number of journalists and producers, and availability that nears the 24/7 range are the areas that currently deliver the most success.
Despite the advances in technology (or maybe because of it) the PR cycle has slowed down a bit, as more time has to be spent on the human side of content distribution, rather than the technology side as has been the norm over the past decade.
An integrated Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned (PESO) distribution strategy is sure to produce the best outcomes aligned with business objectives, rather than creating and distributing content solely for the sake of for example media only. Content marketing and repurposing keeps content alive for longer, and allows your customers to find it on a platform they feel most comfortable with.
One of the greatest fears of professional bodies and industry associations is the threat social media holds for their continued existence.
These organisations typically offer a value proposition that includes a mix of common ingredients: discounted rates for training and event registrations, access to particular types of information, and networking opportunities with like-minded professionals in the relevant sector. While membership to some of the organisations is voluntary and aimed at improving product and service quality, there are several professional bodies that participate in the regulation of relevant sectors by awarding professional desigations to qualifying members.
Although the professional bodies have enforced regulation on their side to offer some measure of guaranteed existence, the challenge of member retention and growing the membership base year-on-year remains. These challenges have become harder than ever over the past three years with the rapid rise of social media as replacement to everything membership organisations traditionally had in their arsenal to attract and retain loyal members.
The days of these organisations are however far from numbered ... but only if their executive and leadership teams are willing to let go of business as usual and a habit of using past information to inform future actions.
Membership organisations, whether voluntary or regulatory, must stop trying to create their value proposition around the benefits social media now offers at a fraction of the time and cost to members. Yes, that means throwing away the vision and mission statement that took 12 people three days to write five years ago. Yes, it means explaining to the board and members why the recent significant investment into developing online communication platforms has become outdated. Yes, it means recreating an entirely new business model, based on little more than guts, intuition and innovative thinking. And, most importantly, it means giving a controlling amount of strategic direction of the organisation to its members.
The new business model for membership based organisations needs to be centered around the things social media CAN'T offer i.e. in-depth individual relationships. Algorithms and data-driven marketing has the scoop on personalisation, so a few tweaks to CRM software to include Dear <<FIRST NAME>> in mass emails isn't nearly enough.
When members interact with their organisation, they must experience the benefits of an authentic relationship with another human being. A relationship that has developed over the course of time and through a variety of intricate interactions, not merely through a few fleeting social posts with a half-life of a couple of hours. A relationship that isn't damaged irreversably with the latest app update, but one that can stand the test of time. A relationship with conversations that start with an honestly caring "how are you?" and isn't limited to an SEO optimised 140 characters.
Social media fans and followers are ranked and rewarded according to skewed popularity.
In membership organisations the focus of the strategic direction, operational imperatives, and choice of tactics should focus on building closer, more authentic relationships with members as individuals, rather than activity- and account-based groupings. As individual member intelligence increases, so will trust from members increase. Since people buy from people and brands they trust, the business model of the revamped membership organisation therefore lies in monetising areas of need informed by member intelligence not merely gathered from individuals, but willingly provided by individuals.
Customer loyalty is at the root of success for any lasting business. And when that loyalty turns into passionate advocacy, a "superfan" is born. For brands, these dedicated followers can help transform a satisfactory business into a sensational one. The obvious question for brands is: How do you create superfans?
Dear (or rather, not-so-dear) PR industry, you're doing it wrong!
That was the takeaway from pretty much every conversation I had with journalists and editors at the recent Menell Media Exchange.
What newsrooms hate:
- media releases, especially unsolicited and poorly written media releases
- disrespect for the editorial independence journalists are tasked with
- information that they can only access by jumping through a series of time consuming hoops
What newsrooms need:
- information instead of content
- relationships with trusted sources instead of being on an ill-considered media list
- non-branded broadcast-ready multimedia content instead of text
What brand communicators can do:
- spend time and effort on building relationships, rather than just creating content (journalists are expert content creators, don't try to battle them on their own turf)
- client education to change the expectations they have of results from communication activities (contrary to client perceptions and expectations, the media does not exist to push the products and services of brands)
Can this work? Can the PR industry change its focus and habit without sacrificing profits?
The announcement that the South African Press Association (SAPA) will cease operations on 31 March has been met with widespread dismay. Speculation on the impact of the decision range from decreased quantity and diversity of articles featuring in national publications, to a fear that smaller regional publications might have to merge or close as a steady news stream from SAPA dries up.
The media industry in South Africa is like a phoenix that has now been forced to end one lifecycle. A long-lived era has been put to flames by digital innovation and changes in news consumption, and has made room for a new cycle to emerge from the ashes.
While the rumoured commercial SAPA replacement might be a solution to the very grave fallout of job losses, potential loss of revenue, and threatened existence of smaller publication, an opportunity exists for this new cycle to mend a few fundamental news bridges.
Newsrooms obtain story ideas from a variety of sources including their own database of trusted contacts, news agencies such as SAPA, online searches and from companies that make use of public relations practices. Public relations (PR) is a function that not many news consumers are aware of. When done professionally and ethically, PR can be a crucial link between newsworthy stories from a company and a journalist producing content for a publication.
Over several decades a rivalry between the newsroom and the PR office has started to take shape. Based on both fact and fiction, criticisms have ranged from income, to ethics, to professionalism and plain old misunderstanding of two industries that at the core have the same goal in mind; informed and empowered consumers.
The closure of SAPA is an immense loss to both those who stand to lose their jobs, and consumers who have become used to a steady stream of news. The new status quo will force journalists and PR professionals to take responsibility for providing news that truly cuts through the clutter of both under resourced newsrooms pressed for volumes and deadlines and publicity hungry clients. With the quantity of news stories in jeopardy, both industries must find a way to work together on shifting the focus back to the age-old principle of quality over quantity.
I'd like to emphasise that this is much easier said than done in the face of news consumption habits that have changed with the digital revolution and rise of social media. The increased amounts of brands that want to tell their stories, with the juxtaposed decreased amount of newspaper and programming minutes available, also pose several challenges for media professionals.
Challenges for the PR industry
PR professionals can’t risk falling back on filling media contact list gaps with submitting stories to SAPA. Building a reliable media contact list from the widely dispersed information available takes time and continued effort. Becoming a trusted source of accurate and valuable information takes even more time, and requires a balancing act between what clients see as important, journalists and editors see as newsworthy, and consumers find valuable.
Breaking through the barriers of age-old negative perceptions can however not be aligned with any deadline, and both outsourced and in-house communications departments that have been relying heavily on the SAPA distribution channel should change ways without any further delay.
Challenges for newsrooms
While some practitioners definitely deserve to be called ‘spin doctors’ there are those that truly have the same fundamental drive as journalists. Advances made and thought leadership shared by organisations and brands that can have a positive impact on the economy of South Africa and the lives of its citizens are available in abundance. Communication is however not usually part of the core skills of these brands, which is why PR professionals play a crucial role in closing the gap between the stories available and a journalist who can share it with a greater audience.
The new era brought by the end of SAPA might see journalists having to work more closely with PR professionals to obtain comment and insight on current affairs.
Whether reluctantly or optimistically, South African media professionals will have to make changes in order to continue to provide consumers with the news SAPA has made easy for many to come by.
My Google search history this week reveals several attempts to find out how to find a shortcut to attaining the elusive work-life balance.
"how to make exercise part of your daily routine"
"quick workouts for busy people"
"fitness classes in [my area]"
"what's the deal with crossfit"
It turns out that all I had to do to find the answer was to take a walk.
As this article promised, and this one, and this one, I benefited from something far more valuable than a trim waistline ... I found perspective, calm, excitement, creativity, and drive.
If you're struggling with finding the motivation for making time for exercise (yes, making, not finding) then do it for the dope ... the chemicals that are released during physical activity that are said to:
- "motivate us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them"
- "feel significant or important"
- "alleviate anxiety and depression"
These benefits seem so similar to the factors that are needed for success - positive attitude, positive image, creativity, stamina etc. - that exercise appears to be the only shortcut needed for surefire success (together with consistent, focused hard work of course). And since we'll only be able to reap the rewards of the success is if we are physically and mentally healthy enough, it makes the benefits of exercise-induced chemicals superior to the manufactured ones bandied about in popular culture.
If you, like me, hate the idea and schlep of exercise, and always place it at the bottom of your to-do list because it never seems in line with achieving your professional goals, then it might be time to rethink your approach. From now on, I will be doing it for the dop(e)amine.
* The above is indeed based on a lot of "pop science", and should not be used as facts in any informal or legal argument as it is purely a result of a mind left to wander while the feet pounded a few kilometers of tar. For more scientific views on the topic of brain chemicals read this, or better yet, ask a trained professional.
**I'm by no means advocated forming an addiction to any type of chemical, natural or manufactured!
My motivation for exercise (which has mainly been half-harted attempts a week before hitting the beach) has changed from being focused on looking and feeling good, to being an integral part of my career plan.
New Year's resolutions seem to have become the nerdy kid that everyone openly scoffs, but secretly admires.
Whether or not you subscribe to the habit of making and breaking (or keeping) resolutions at the beginning of each year, there is one resolution/change/focus/mantra that will help you to extend the relaxed feeling of the break you had over the holidays.
PR is known as one of the most stressful careers, and PR professionals are known for their type-A personalities and workalism. It is because of this combination that the effects of any holiday or break from work don't last very long.
The only resolution that makes sense for PR professionals is to CREATE HABITS NOW THAT WILL REDUCE FATIGUE LATER.
The habits each one of us need to create obviously depends on our job function and approach; mine need to focus on automisation and smart management of routine tasks, as those tend to steal my energy away from the things I'm good at.
Social media is a necessity for marketers, but usually takes a backseat as it is still viewed as a "nice to have" instead of one of the easiest and cheapest to tools to gain insight from target audiences.
Built-in functionality like Twitter's list feature and Facebook's native post scheduling functionality can go a long way to reduce the time spent managing social media platforms. Third-party apps are also a dime a dozen, and range from simple organising to full-scale intelligent curation and automatic sharing of content.
The lists mentioning these apps and tools are endless, but these are a few of my favourites:
For a few tips on how to still keep in touch with your audience while technology does the hard work for you, read this and this.
I am fortunate to work with a team that I can trust to take care of both our clients and our brand. Working with a team you CAN trust, and actually ACTING on that trust are two completely different things.
I've found the first step towards proper delegation is to ensure that your expectations have been clearly communicated and understood, and that the necessary training and testing has been allowed. And then, it's all a matter of trust, backing off, and guiding (instead of micro-managing, constantly checking and criticising).
Once you've delegated those things that sap your energy, you might not need a holiday in a hurry again.
Expand your horizons everyday through reading, listening, exercising, meeting with like-minded people (or those with opposing views) ... or just taking a break from the one-eyed monster sitting on your desk. Perspective lies outside the office walls, and problems viewed from an objective perspective tend to wither away before causing sleepless nights and stressed-out days.
Success is achieved through focus and consistency. We so easily fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people, that saying no has become one of the most stressful activities of every day.
Once you have made a decision on what to focus on (whether is be in your private or professional life), a consistent effort in making decisions and accepting tasks that support the focus areas will soon lead to achieving success where most needed, leaving time and energy at the end of each day.
For those of us who holds jobs where multitasking is necessity, doing one thing at a time (and finishing it) is a great chellenge. I will however try very hard this year to do only one thing at a time, and finish it before moving on to the next item on the never-ending to-do list.
Are you brave enough to share the habits you need to create to extend the resting value of this past holiday? Leave me a list in the comment section below if you are!
At the recent Professional Bodies, Associations and Societies Summit 2014 representatives from various organisations shared their thoughts on and advice for transformation, engagement and communication strategies for the next generation professional organisation.
Evident from the majority of the sessions is that most membership based organisations face similar problems, even though the industries they serve are worlds apart.
At That Point is proud to have been the official PR partner for the summit, with Cathlen and I in attendance to do a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operation. During the three days of the summit we picked up on a few keywords that that kept on popping up in the majority of sessions. It was evident from the majority of speakers that a revolution in how professional bodies and associations approach and involve their members was inevitable (see the infographic below).
The revolution needed is "a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operation", rather than "a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system".
2015 will need to see professional bodies, associations and societies revolve around their members, and do away with any habits that expect members to do the revolving.
For the Twitter feed that contains snippets from the summit, search the hashtag #2014PBS or click here.
If you'd like to know how your own event can benefit from live reporting via social media, please give us a shout.
Have you or your company jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, created a Twitter profile, and then run for the hills chased by vivid nightmares of a little blue bird?
If not, we've included a few tips on how to get started with Twitter in this post.
If you'd like to start actively tweeting (writing and sharing messages on Twitter) we'd advise keeping the below in mind, especially if you're tweeting in your professional capacity.
Don't be intimidated by the tool or the technology supporting it. If you can communicate (which all of us can) you can "do" social media. If you'd like to become a rockstar social media user, give us a shout to enquire about a training session suited to your specific requirements and experience level.
Getting started with Twitter might be as easy as clicking a few buttons and typing a few letters for some, and as fear-inducing as watching a late-night horror movie marathon alone on a rainy night.
The good news is that you can create a Twitter account by using the steps in the infographic below, and then just lurk around for a bit while getting used to the style of writing, the topics that are discussed, and the unwritten rules of this micro-blogging platform which has replaced the Dear Diary bit of many lives.
When you're ready to start tweeting, visit our follow-up infographic for a few things to keep in mind, especially if you're tweeting in a professional capacity.
Twitter has done a great job of compiling a list of helpful FAQs as well as a more detailed guide on how to get started. Visit www.twitter.com right now to get started!