There was a time when PR pros and their counterparts in marketing measured success by the number of impressions a campaign generated.  I’ve never cared much for the fleeting impression.  In my mind, unless it turns into a measurable outcome, impressions are simply an abstract estimate of the number of people annoyed by a campaign.

There, I said it.  “Annoyed.” Interruption is not a viable communications model, not in this day and age, when our audiences are so firmly in control of the content they consume. Rather than barging our way into our audiences’ minds, instead, communicators have a new charge. Our brands have to be viewed as smart, interesting, useful, accessible and human by our audiences. And it’s up to communicators not to just craft this image, but to deliver the experience.

“Experience” is the cornerstone, and communicators have to consider customer experience as they create and publish content. To determine if your content is on the right track, ask yourself if the content your organization is publishing is “REAL,” which I’m using a handy little acronym for the following:

Relevant: Too often brands tell the story they want their audiences to hear, not thinking in terms of what information their audiences are actively seeking. The first step to achieving relevance is listening to what audiences are saying.  What questions recur over and over in online discussion groups? What are the search keywords that are most often used in your industry category?  What questions do your customer-facing teams field most often? Aggregating this data will help your organization understand what your audience really cares about. In addition to answering these questions outright, the organization can also use this valuable intelligence as a framework for messaging. Creating relevant content is the best way to ensure the audience you acquire is indeed qualified.

Entertaining (or engaging, or both): No matter what subject matter your content addresses, in order to be successful, the content must be entertaining or engaging  — and preferably both!  Some subjects lend themselves well to humor, which makes the entertaining piece a slam dunk. But if your subject matter is of a drier nature, and doesn’t lend itself well to being funny, that’s still no excuse to be boring. Lively writing peppered with anecdotes and real-life stories will make your content more interesting to readers. Bullet points and lists will draw readers in. And visuals – even simple charts – add appeal and dimension to otherwise flat content.

Actionable:  Will your content improve the lives of readers? That’s a big question, but ensuring the answer is “yes” will virtually guarantee the utility of the content you’re publishing. While your content may not be the answer to lifelong happiness, it should enable your readers to do something better. Does it offer tips to help them use your service more efficiently, save budget dollars or do their jobs better? Does it offer insight that will help them make a more informed buying decision? Ensure your content offers a course of action your readers can follow that will make positive impact on their lives.

Leading:  While many of us love writing, the content we’re producing really does need to have a point.  It needs to offer a pathway for interested readers to follow – and to further qualify themselves as prospects for your brand.   However, the path you lead your readers down doesn’t need to be (and probably shouldn’t be) as overt as requiring them to fill out a form for more information. Instead, if you have developed a set of interesting and useful content, trust it to attract and guide your prospects. Offer more useful information, which drills more deeply into specific needs and answers ever-more detailed answers. Effectively, you’re mapping content to the buying cycle, putting general interest information at the top of the funnel, to attract prospects, and then qualifying those prospects as they pursue more information.  By the time your prospects do reach out and contact your brand, most of them will have done extensive research, and eliminated potential vendors – and they will be very well qualified prospects.

Anyone who has a hand in creating content for a brand knows of the ceaseless demand for information generated in today’s information marketplaces.  And let’s face it, content creation is time consuming and expensive.  However, content that is truly “REAL” and is mapped to the different stages in your organization’s buying funnel can be a tremendously efficient generator of qualified leads for your business.  Before you publish, take the time to get the content right, and make sure it’s “REAL.”

Did your Public Relations strategy lose steam this year? Or were all of your projects overwhelming successes?

As 2012 winds down, it might be time for some reflection. What went well? What didn’t go so well? What will you repeat and what will you shelve in the New Year?

Once you’ve reflected on 2012, it’s time to gear up for what’s ahead. Here are a few fresh ideas to kick-start your planning for 2013.

Give the people what they want

This one begins and ends with listening. Customer complaints, while seemingly negative on the surface, are actually good opportunities to make adjustments. Any suggestions are opportunities for improvement (and earned revenue).

If your company doesn’t have a solid feedback system in place – meaning no way to gather customer feedback – then 2013 is the year to implement that infrastructure. Add a satisfaction survey if you can or solicit client feedback online. Depending on the resources available to you, social media might be a platform you can use to engage and improve.

No matter your budget, finding a way to listen to your customers just makes sense. But it’s not just enough to hear them, be prepared to make the necessary changes (that make sense for your business) to please the masses.

Focus on relationships

Following suit, focusing on the relationships important to your company can never fall to the wayside. You may not follow the flock when it comes to social media, but whatever your strategy, partnerships are probably the cornerstone of your business.

For 2013, focus on at least 2 partnership-building opportunities. Host a customer-appreciation event (online or in person) and try reaching out to a person or business (maybe via LinkedIn) that might add positively to one or more of your campaigns.

It’s important to remember that even your most steadfast fans can’t be forgotten, but trying new things has to be part of your plan.

Gather expertise and share it

Those positive business relationships need to be used. This year, add a panel of experts to your arsenal. Build your thought leadership program.

You could arrange to have your thought leaders draft a new content series. Or maybe they’re more suited to live interaction. Maybe they can host an online event on a burning issue important to your social media audiences. You might even choose to host a live event with your thought leaders as the expert panel.

There are many options available; the beauty of partnerships and thought leadership is that you don’t have to do all the thinking on your own.

Engage with rich multimedia

With the advent of Pinterest and Instagram, it’s obvious that more and more audiences are attracted to companies who offer something visual.

This year, you’ll have to spend some time figuring out how to create or revamp your company’s visual identity. That’s the fun part.

The trick here is to stand out from the crowd. This visual marketing has been a popular strategy, so the key is differentiation. If your videos, images and infographics are flat, it might be time to call in the help of the professionals.

Try something new

Has your use of Facebook and Twitter become tired, second-hand marketing decoration? If you’re bored of the same ol’ social media platforms, why not try a new one this year?

Take the plunge: explore Pinterest or Intstagram. And maybe Lino or Twiddla could be of some use to your business? Take the time (before it’s too late) to do some research on an up-and-coming tool, or a well-known (but untapped to you) platform.

Get moving because social media will always be changing – this year and the next. Your social media strategy can make the difference for your success in 2013.

If you provide good food at an event, along with insightful speakers around an interesting topic, the room will be full of open ears. That was the case at the very first MediaVantage ‘Breakfast for PR pros’ event.
We brought together a number of communications professionals, served them breakfast and coffee, and brought in PR pros from the Canadian Paralympic Committee, a 5 time Paralympian athlete, and the Canadian Red Cross to discuss event analysis.

To put on such a huge international event as the Paralympic games there is obviously a lot of planning involved. Alison Korn – Manager of Media Relations, gave us a background of just how much coverage and analysis there was with such a high profile event as the games. Alison stated that their goal going into the London 2012 games was to achieve 150 million impressions in the media, and exceed their previous numbers from the 2010 Vancouver games. They reached over 800 million impressions! All of the information gathered had to be evaluated for tone, and grouped into specific issues, a task that would probably be impossible if not for MediaVantage. Evaluating all of this data helps manage their brand reputation but also; helps to position top Paralympians as elite athletic role models and help tell their stories, motivate Canadians to follow the Canadian Paralympic Team, raise awareness of opportunities in Paralympic sport and increase participation in Parasport.

The Canadian Red Cross take a different approach when monitoring their brand and evaluating their coverage during an event. There is no telling when a disaster will strike, which means that both a proactive and a reactive approach are necessary in order to manage their brand reputation. Catherine Tierney – Advisor, Market Research, explained that after a crisis happens it’s crucial for the Canadian Red Cross to take in all mentions throughout the media and create key messaging around specific events that must stay consistent when talking to media. Using MediaVantage has allowed their team to stay on message and to be successful.

All of the information that was shared that morning was well received by the other peers and communications professionals in the room. Todd Nicholson, a 5 time Paralympic athlete tugged at the heart strings of people while he told his incredible story. I believe everybody learned something new or took something away from each one of our fantastic guest speakers. To say the least the ‘Breakfast for PR pros’ event was a great success, and I’m sure it was the first of many more to come.

So, you think you know media relations.

You’ve handled the tough questions, established some good relationships with key journalists and you know most of the how-tos.

But what lies beyond these tactics?

It’s the strategy. Increasingly we, as communicators, are being asked to demonstrate value and prove our worth. Having sound strategies in place is one of the sure-fire ways to do just that.

Here are some helpful tips to build a media relations strategy from the ground-up:

 

1.     GOALS

You can’t achieve success if you don’t know what success looks like. Take some control and outline exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

Your media relations goals should be directly tied to your business and communications goals. Are you trying to achieve success in a certain market? Or trying to promote a new product or service? Link your media relations goals directly to that. And make them measurable.

Maybe you need to inform your stakeholders? Educate them? Or influence them? Be specific when planning your goals and objectives. It might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many communicators don’t take the time to outline their goals before jumping in. The key is aligning your goals to the overarching business goals.

2.       WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?

A good PR practitioner will tell you that it’s worth determining who your audiences are. Every single one. Segmentation is vital. It’s not enough to say “news media.” You better know which publications, and which journalists you want to talk to.

If you divide your audiences accordingly, it makes it easier to determine how much influence they have on your business or in your market. And, you’ll be better able to tailor messaging that really speaks to each audience.

3.       WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?

Overall, your company will have some general messaging to align the business. And, for each campaign, you’ll need to create specific messaging to support your goals and objectives.

If you understand what your audiences need and want from you, you should be able to anticipate what kinds of information you’ll share. For your strategy, stick to three key messages that support your media relations goals. You should be able to fall back on these three if you’re ever in doubt.

4.       WHAT ARE YOU DOING and HOW ARE YOU GETTING THERE?

Tactics are the nitty gritty details of what exactly you’ll be doing to tackle your goals. Will you issue media advisories, host press conferences or get exposure for your key spokespeople during community events? What are you going to do?

How are you planning to achieve these tactics? Is it to build new relationships or nurture existing ones? It’s important to note how you’ll execute. And when? Attach some timelines and a budget to these tactics.

5.       MEASURE

Was one of your goals to increase media coverage from financial media by 20% more than last year? How will you know you achieved that? Make sure that you’ve budgeted for measurement. It’s an ongoing process and it’s the only way you’ll be able to determine success.

Having a media relations strategy in place is just good business practice. You may have mastered the art of media relations. But, at the end of the day, even if you can answer tough questions on the spot, it won’t matter unless you’re tying those media relations tactics to your business strategy.

Know how your audiences are talking about you: this is a common theme in the world of reputation management.

In our last post about setting up effective searches, we spoke about spending time figuring out the terms your audiences use to talk about you. To drive home this point, we’ve got two recent examples of companies doing just that.

Here are two good examples of smart community management:

1) Delta (the airline) catches a tweet that didn’t use its Twitter handle and even misspelled “Delta” as “Detla”. We caught this on the UnMarketer’s blog. And, as he says, Delta’s tweet saved the brand day.

This is a great example of proactive monitoring. Delta clearly took the time to segment some search terms. Even more, this let Delta engage (apologetically) in an otherwise missed opportunity.

2) Taco Bell sees a tweet from Old Spice referencing its “fire sauce”. Mind you, the tweet was a dig, and Taco Bell had a comeback. But the important thing to note on this one is that “Taco Bell” was never mentioned in the original tweet. Just another example of knowing how your audiences are talking about you and your products.

 

So what? Don’t let opportunities to engage pass you by – take the time to really understand how your brand is talked about. And apply the knowledge to your reputation management program as a whole.

(image via AdWeek)

I try to keep up with current events. MediaVantage helps with that – but that’s not what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about your personal brand. An interesting (read: awful) example in the news recently is the story of (former) Greek Olympian, Paraskevi (Voula) Papachristou. If you haven’t heard about her, you will.

What’s notable about this Twitter gaffe is that even though Papachristou represents Greece in the Olympics, Olympians are individuals competing for sport. So, each Olympian, even if they’re competing in a team sport and represent an entire nation, has a personal brand to uphold.

An Olympian’s livelihood often comes from sponsorships. After the Twitterverse erupted, Papachristou’s sponsors ran for the hills; the effects of a reverse halo effect. The same way sponsors will abandon affiliations with her, so too would an employer for me if I made as grave an error in the online space.

As a PR professional, I’m going to be responsible to coach executives in their own personal branding. It’s also something I have to balance for myself. And there are a lot of things to watch out for and be aware of.

Within the online space, having a Twitter presence, Facebook presence, Pinterest account, a blog, friends’ photos of me – there’s a myriad of information about me online. And it’s fully public. The same thing goes for Papachristou (and a majority of North Americans). She’s now set in motion a need to manage a crisis – a personal brand crisis. The difference? A global spotlight brought on by the Olympics shines on her every move.

Something to think about.

(image © Gallo Images)

Finding what you’re looking for online can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Even Google has built different engines, specific to different types of content: Google Scholar, Google Blogs, Google Images, etc. Google created different platforms because, depending on your search terms, the engine might not grab all the content that’s useful to you.

 

 

In the MV platform, setting up search terms is key. And while it’s only one part of your reputation management, it’s an important one. One of our experts recently gave the team a breakdown of how to refine search terms, and here’s what I got from it:

Optimizing search terms across different media

In the MV platform, you can select different types of media you’d like to scan. Whether it’s broadcast, print, Internet or social media, you can filter your search and tweak the keywords for each one.

When setting up search terms and keywords, consider the nuances among different types of media:

Broadcast

Broadcasts are built in sound bites. Closed captioning can be misspelled or adlibbed. In a crisis situation, you might be looking for a spokesperson’s full name. But a broadcast transcript might site the person’s position and company instead.

Print

Print publications funnel out information so the less important information ends up at the bottom of the article. This is because if the publication needs to cut down the length of an article (for layout reasons), they can cut from the bottom-up without losing the meat of the story. It’s probably easiest to find content in print sources because of the obligation and tradition of writing for publications – spokespersons’ full names and companies’ legal names are used.

Internet and social media

Internet sources often carry on the print story and may end up having a bit of a social spin. The Internet isn’t edited the same way a print publication is, so the online space often sees more frequent use of synonyms, slang terms, acronyms, hashtags and variations on company names.

Ever heard of Brangelina? Do you call McDonald’s “Mickey D’s”? Do you use “iPod” and “mp3 player” interchangeably? When you talk about your mobile device, do you call it a cell phone? A cell? Your mobile? Maybe you’ve been misspelling Led Zeppelin incorrectly all these years? You can’t tell me you know for certain that it’s Walmart and not Wal-Mart. Or is it? You’re probably not the only one – why would your audiences be any different?

Adapt your search term for better results by:

  • Using media-specific tools (filters, regions, channels, program guide);
  • Test different keywords to see which combinations work best for your topic (if at first you don’t succeed);
  • Tailor search terms and keywords to each of the media categories.

Ultimately, the onus is on the user to enter appropriate keywords to get the results they’re looking for.

It’s important to listen to your audiences and perform searches using the language they speak. To dig up all of the media mentions of your brand, using your company’s full legal name might not always point you to all the useful references.

Looking for information the right way is the key to effective monitoring, so it’s vital to know how your audiences are talking about you.

This blog post is the first in a series on PR measurement and reporting. It comes from
Rob McMurtrie, Vice President at Porter Novelli Seattle. 

 

Most PR reports are like soap bubbles – pretty to look at but not very strong. The problem is circulations, article counts and tonality of coverage tell business leaders very little about the impact public relations is having on the company’s goals. And when they start asking probing questions about the value of these measures – POP! – there goes YOUR reputation.

PR reports are like soap bubblesMore PR professionals need to push beyond their comfort zone and start creating strong analysis of their results. Securing good coverage – which is what these traditional measures evaluate – isn’t the goal of our profession. It’s the prerequisite.

So what to do instead? Index your coverage results and correlate them with other, more meaningful data. The three steps below highlight a simple way to do that.

First, reduce the cost and time spent on collecting prerequisite data. A lot of PR folks and agencies still have a “clip book” mentality – that it is critical to capture every single mention of your brand or product to fatten up that clip book. While there are certainly cases where finding all relevant coverage is important (in times of crisis, for example), getting to 100% coverage capture is very expensive and isn’t necessary to get a statistically valid sample that will index your coverage results. There are tools available that can help automate that process and free up tracking dollars for more meaningful projects.

Second, determine what data you can get from inside your organization. Here’s a hint: Don’t start with sales! While understanding PR’s impact on sales is considered the “holy grail” of measurement, it typically requires very expensive ROI analysis that accounts for the influence of all aspects of the marketing mix. Instead, try some simple steps like looking at social media reaction to an announcement as a proxy for how you impacted customer perception and attitudes or evaluating inbound web traffic from publication sites immediately after coverage hits. After a recent new product launch for a small consumer products client, we were able to show that traffic to the website doubled in the week following due to referrals from sites featuring coverage we generated.

Finally, start thinking about measurement as a process, not an end product. Many PR pros consider their job complete when they have a number they can share with management. The number is only part of the story, however. What is critical is the insight derived from that number. Having a consistent and repeatable measurement process makes deriving those insights easier because you can analyze your impact over time – whether it is quarter to quarter or across a particular series of events. That consistency allows you to understand how changes positively or negatively impacted your results and to design better programs, products, etc. It also allows you to iterate as you get access to new and different forms of data.

 

It’s important to note that these same steps can be used not only for traditional media but also for social media measurement which many of us are increasingly being asked to tackle.

Make a commitment this summer to leave the soap bubbles to the kids and start constructing a measurement program that will last long after Labor Day!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Rob McMurtrie is Vice President at Porter Novelli Seattle. He has 15 years of experience developing local, national and international marketing communications programs for clients and has spent 10 years developing Porter Novelli’s award-winning measurement programs.

Rob’s measurement work was recognized with the 2008 PR News Platinum Award for Measurement and Evaluation and the 2008 Iron Sabre Certificates of Excellence for Evaluation. Rob is active in the Seattle community and frequently speaks on PR-related issues.

You can follow Rob on Twitter (@robmctree) or connect with him via LinkedIn.

You’ve made the decision to buy reporting and monitoring software. But it’s not all sunshine and roses – there are some pitfalls.

The process can be overwhelming. It’s hard to differentiate between the advantages and disadvantages of all the options. And while the platforms for gathering metrics are many and vary widely, when all is said and done, you have to pick the solution that works best for your company.

Asking the right questions (of yourself and of the provider) can help you avoid the headache of being in a service agreement that doesn’t suit your business.

Here are 5 pitfalls that can be easily avoided:

1. Short-sighted purchasing decision

Before you engage service providers, it’s important to do a bit of a self-audit. Ask yourself: “Are my requirements now the same requirements I’ll have five years from now?” What if something controversial happens in your industry? Can the platform grow with your constantly-changing business?

2. I have to be at my desk to manage my portal

Is it important to you to know when something’s happened even if you’re not at your desk? Ask the service provider how their solution supports a travelling practitioner. Maybe you want real-time alerts sent to your smartphone. Does the provider offer that as an option?

3. Unexpected transactional fees

Budget certainty is important to many businesses. How important is it to your business? After the implementation costs, what other fees might be incurred? This one’s like getting locked in a cell phone service contract where you signed up for a $45/month plan but your bill always comes in at $75/month.

4. Having to pay for extra searches

Change is inevitable and flexibility in your search terms is paramount. Things may seem quiet right now, but maybe you have a product launch in a few months. Would the number of search terms you purchased be enough to monitor an influx in chatter? Does the provider offer unlimited search terms? If not, what will those extra ones cost?

5. I can’t preview my clips before purchasing them

In the end, engagement is usually what you’re trying to measure. Numbers can help tell the story, but the difference is in how your audiences are talking about you. If you’re tracking an issue, wouldn’t it be nice to preview some of the content so you can decide whether or not it’s worth including in your analysis? Ask the provider if they allow clips to be previewed before you purchase them.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Before you sign a service agreement, make sure you’re evaluating the provider from all angles. There’s a lot to take into account but you can avoid these pitfalls by asking the right questions.

What would you add?

Have you ever stopped to think about how much media monitoring costs your company?

Your PR department has been collecting clips for your company for a while and you’ve even managed to come up with some metrics to trend for tone. But how do you know you’re capturing all the coverage that’s meaningful to your business? How many sources do you examine?

Have you ever really considered the cost of doing this kind of thing manually?

We did.

Made a few assumptions, adjusted for inflation, and voila! We figured out what a North American company spends on average per year on monitoring its media coverage. When trying to justify a monitoring service, consider these figures.

How much time would it take to compile a clipbook manually? This depends on the size of the company but, on a regular day (no issue to be managed or crisis to quell), let’s assume (if you’ve had your morning coffee)…it takes:

  • ~ 2 hours every morning to scan the news sites, broadcast sites, video sites, RSS feeds, and collect news clips
  • ~ 1 hour to manually generate a clipbook
  • ~ 1 hour converting the information into manipulate-able data…if you’re an Excel wiz
  • A few hours for tone analysis and reporting brings you to your full 8-hour work day

Some days will be worse than others. You might be sluggish because it’s a Monday or maybe your company recently released its earnings and there are a higher volume of mentions.

Now let’s talk money. According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics website, in 2010, the hourly mean wage for a Public Relations Specialist is about $33.50 per hour. The Living in Canada website, in 2010, cites the average wage for a Public Relations professional working in Toronto at about $25.00 per hour. Landing somewhere in the middle, we’ll use $29.00 per hour as our yardstick wage.

Let’s say that he/she spends about 95% of their time working on media monitoring-related things. So, based on a 40-hour work week, your company pays about $1,000.00 per week toward manual media monitoring – which rings you in at about $52,000.00 per year.

Now, if you’re a larger company, you could be paying 2 or 3 staff members to share that work. Or consider if your PR pro is at the higher end of the pay scale and makes closer to $40.00 per hour – now it’s costing your company about $80,000 yearly.

When you consider that your company pays somewhere between $50,000 and $80,000 annually on manual media monitoring, it might be time to consider a full-service provider.