SHIFT Agency PR Blog and PR News

28 Apr 2015

BuzzFeed Pound and the Future of Data-Driven Decisions

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As marketers and users in the world of social content distribution, we often wonder what’s next. What’s the next big social network that will come into play with the companies we represent and their audiences? Lately, that focus has turned to data. Take Snapchat; many brands are jumping on that bandwagon to the tune of $750,000 a day, but the truth is that the analytics for those efforts are sorely lacking.

BuzzFeed, the Internet’s current media darling, realizes that data is the key. Data is the way to determine what works, what spreads, what stories will be shared and in what ways. Marketers have long tried to determine what makes something go viral. BuzzFeed Pound makes the claim that it has cracked that nut using data and “new, proprietary technology that captures how BuzzFeed stories spread on the social web.”

With the advent of assisted conversions, we’ve recognized that content spread (and their conversions) aren’t limited to a single share, that a single channel isn’t responsible for a conversion, click, read, share, etc. Content has a complicated way of spreading about the Internet. When we look at the limited view of how many shares per network each story gets, we see only a piece of the puzzle.

What BuzzFeed’s Pound technology shows is what happens as content spreads across social networks. In fact, they looked at the data from the infamous #TheDress post to demonstrate the solution and visualization that comes out of Pound.

This GIF by BuzzFeed shows the spread of the story about the dress and its structure using data:

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We can’t predict or see what would be a valuable addition to the social channel equation without first understanding how users use and share things across the different platforms. Companies like BuzzFeed are beginning to use Big Data to understand how content spreads over a series of time rather than in discrete, clustered groups. We can begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

On a much smaller scale, companies can use their data in similar ways. Using tools and technologies you already have access to, you can start asking similar questions of your data. The key is collecting data from the start (use Google Analytics from day one!) and using that data to tell stories over time about audiences, users, needs, services and platforms.

What’s next? Technologies like BuzzFeed Pound show the insights executives need to fuel data-driven decisions. With the tools and skills you have, how could you start to inquire of your own data the same questions BuzzFeed is asking about theirs?

We’ll be walking you through that journey over the coming weeks.

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

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27 Apr 2015

State of Social Q1 2015: 40% of Facebook users are mobile-only

Facebook released its earnings report for Q1 2015, with the latest updates to the largest social network’s statistics. Let’s see what changed!

Growth

1q15 Facebook User Growth

Above, monthly active users (green bars) grew 3.37% quarter-over-quarter to 1.44 billion people. Facebook holds onto its title as not only the world’s largest social network, but the world’s largest virtual nation. The blue line indicates their growth rate, which ticked upwards a small amount from Q4 2014. When you think about it, that’s an astonishing feat. Continuing to show growth when you already have the market leadership and saturation is impressive.

Regional Growth

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Above, the Middle East and Africa represent continued growth for Facebook. What’s surprising is the growth in the EU; Facebook’s reach there is consistently growing about 2% quarter over quarter. For marketers with a strong international presence, this is good news.

Mobility

Facebook’s a mobile giant. 86% of Facebook users access the service on a monthly basis at least part of the time on mobile devices. If you’ve got Facebook traffic coming to your digital properties, you’ve got mobile users. What’s really stunning is this figure, highlighted by the red bars and the blue line:

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The blue line represents the number of people who access Facebook SOLELY on a mobile device monthly. The red bars show the percentage of all Facebook users this represents. In short: 40% of Facebook’s users – 2 out of 5 – use Facebook on mobile devices only.

Revenue

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While at first glance, it would appear that there’s a dip in Facebook’s revenue, this is a seasonal pattern. Facebook, on a quarter-over-quarter basis, always looks worse off in Q1 due to the high spend in Q4 for consumer retailing. The drop in Q1 2015 is steeper than normal. It’s worth noting that APAC’s regional revenue didn’t take nearly the decline that other regions did. If you’re a marketer with a focus on APAC, this is a tidbit worth noting – the APAC revenue engine appears to be stronger for Facebook.

Looking Forward

CEO Mark Zuckerberg made some interesting remarks that hint at the future of Facebook and what marketers should be prepared for. In the prepared remarks, he noted that Facebook now handles over a billion searches per day. That’s an impressive number; in 2014, Google processed an approximate 5.7 billion searches per day. That makes Facebook a serious contender in the search engine wars with effectively 17% of Google’s search volume.

When was the last time you did a generic search in Facebook? When was the last time you searched for your company? Are you showing up there? With 17% of Google’s search volume, could your business afford not to check?

Video, unsurprisingly, is Facebook’s latest play, with 4 billion daily views. It wasn’t clear how many of the views are autoplays, but 4 billion is still a large number. For reference, YouTube passed the 4 billion daily view mark in 2012, only 3 short years ago.

As a marketer, do you cross-load your videos to each platform? The next time you publish a video, consider doing a large-scale A/B test. Load a video to both Facebook and YouTube. Set an equal budget – even as little as $50 per platform. Use AdWords and YouTube Video ads to promote your video on YouTube. Use Facebook sponsored posts and ads to promote your video on Facebook. See which video wins in terms of total eyeballs.

Finally, in case you held out hope that Facebook would make things easier for businesses without paying, COO Sheryl Sandberg dashed the final remains of those hopes in her statements:

Our second priority is growing the number of marketers using our ad products, and we’re making great progress… More and more small businesses are using our free Pages product – and we remain focused on converting these Page owners into advertisers.

Plain. Simple. Clear. Facebook wants businesses to pay to be seen. Prepare accordingly. New technologies like Ad Relevance Score (which resembles AdWords Quality Score, Conversion Lift, and Dynamic Product Ads all are intended to get you to spend more on Facebook. The good news is, if you become proficient with these tools, you should see a positive return on your ad investment.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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24 Apr 2015

Keeping It Professionally Real on Social Media

Keeping it Professional On Social Media

As a working professional, social media can present an internal challenge: we want to get out there and have fun and talk about our personal interests, but we also want to play it cool for that ‘professional’ side of us. The good news is, you can do both. Keeping it professional on social media doesn’t mean you have to compromise who you are and what you like.

Below I included a few of the core tips I’ve learned over the past few years – both personally and via the very public mistakes we see in the headlines. Bear with me as I proceed to sound like your social media mom.

Assume everyone can see everything. Sure there are privacy options, and you can have ‘protected’ accounts, but you should operate under the assumption that anything you post can be seen. For example, you may have a private Twitter account, but someone following you can manually retweet something you say. Or you post a photo to Instagram via your private account, but someone shares the link on his or her public one. Anyone who clicks it can see it. You just never know. Better safe than sorry. It’s all about this thing called “good judgment” and using it, people.

The delete button is a lie. Don’t believe what they tell you. Delete only works in the movies. Maybe you have one too many drinks one night and say something not-so-kosher on social media. The next morning you delete it quicker than you can reach for that Advil. Wrong. It’s too late. Your tweet or post has already been shared all over the place, including with your boss. The truth is, social media posts can be immortal. Just ask a few people who have learned the hard way.

Be an expert on your privacy options. Every network has its own set of privacy options. Sometimes you risk going cross-eyed trying to figure out which setting needs to be adjusted where. Regardless, it’s a good idea to know what options exist out there – whether it’s who can view your content, how people can find you or what information will be shared. Social is what you make of it, and you can use networks for different purposes. Your privacy settings will help you do that.

That said, I would caution about being too closed off. If you want to protect all your accounts and keep things super private, that’s your call. It can be limiting in interacting with others on social that are outside your group of friends.

Don’t be afraid to show personality. Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be bland. Think about it – do you want to follow someone who just tweets out headlines and sounds like a robot? No! Don’t be that person. That person is boring. If you were to stop by my Twitter account on a random day, you’d see a healthy dose of sarcasm with a mix of hockey and a pinch of industry talk. Again, it all comes down to using your best judgment and being smart about things. I don’t post anything I wouldn’t say to people in real life. But having a voice and letting people know who you are can help make social media what it’s supposed to be: social.

Be searchable. For many people, one of the big components of the professional side of social media is networking. You have the chance to connect with people at tons of different companies. Making yourself searchable will help in the quest for growing your network. This goes for any social channel, but especially for Twitter and LinkedIn – use keywords in your bios or profiles that you would like to be found for. On Twitter, feel free to use handles (for example, I have @shiftcomm in my bio as my employer. When people search for SHIFT, I pop up as a result) or hashtags. Just don’t overdo it and #have #your #entire #bio #be #full #of #hashtags.

Get involved. There’s that whole ‘social’ part of social media that can really help you make the most of your experience. Aside from interacting with who you are following and followers, there are proactive ways to get involved professionally on social. LinkedIn Groups are a great way to find industry-related discussions and jump in with your own questions or advice. Twitter chats still exist and can be another opportunity to engage with people in the industry. If you’re nervous about jumping in the first time, just hang around and check out what’s being said. Then dive right in.

Disclose or pay. Literally. I may have saved this for last, but it’s one of the more important points to remember. Always, always, always disclose any client-related information you share. If you’re sharing an announcement from a company your agency is working with or promoting a campaign that a client is running – do not forget to include a #client or (This is a client). It doesn’t matter how you say it, but you must say it. The FTC is willing and ready to hand out hefty fines for those who get caught doing the opposite.

What other tips do you have?

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

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23 Apr 2015

The Top 5 Skills That Young (And All) Communicators Should Develop

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One of the more enjoyable elements of being an executive in communications today is that my work brings me into contact with a wide variety of individuals. Whether it’s participating in webinars, interacting with people online, or speaking at industry, company or academic events, I meet people who are at varying levels of comfort with the fast-paced world in which we live.

Many times, I’m asked by younger communicators what skills they should concentrate on as they finish their degree or begin seeking an agency role. Although to be clear,  this is not a question limited by age; I’ve also gotten the question from career changers or communicators who simply wish to improve their marketability.

As the communications industry continues to change and to adapt to digital environments, these are the key skills/specialties that I see as key to communicators:

Analytics: The ability and necessity to measure results in a digital environment is stronger than ever. By understanding how to think about and interpret data, communicators need to be able to draw inferences and understand trends by providing insights based on what they observe. For us here at SHIFT, it’s a key part of what we mean when we talk about data-driven PR; in fact, it’s the driving force that led us to seek out and attain Google Analytics™ Certified Partner status. We view the future communicator as someone who is able to effectively blend the art and science of PR to be able to counsel clients with facts and insights as well as experience and intuition.

In our recent webinar on Google Analytics Basics for PR Professionals, our VP of Marketing Technology Christopher Penn outlined ways to improve your skill in this area, including sources of free information.

Visuals: Traditionally, communicators have been trained in writing. Interviews, profiles, employee updates, press releases – all are based on the written word. The digital age requires that the communicator be a better storyteller in a variety of media, and that includes visuals. Video, photos, infographics and the like are necessary in a mobile and digital world.

Find photographers that you respect and study their craft. Read forums and blogs related to the visual media that you’re interested in. Find a creative director who can act as a mentor. While you may not be able to create your own infographic at the end of it, you’ll begin to have a better eye for visuals and will appreciate the intricacies of storytelling with fewer words.

Coding: A strong understanding of the technical side of the profession is helpful. While the communicator doesn’t necessarily need to know how to code (although some basic HTML is certainly helpful), they should understand the basic elements of coding and building sites and apps so that they can make recommendations and help clients be able to navigate the trickier waters.

Again, there are many resources out there such as Code Academy, Code.orgKhan Academy, or resources from Google such as HTML5 Rocks or Google Developers University Consortium.

Social: Without a doubt, social is a key element in anything digital today. But more than understanding how to use the platforms, it is helpful to understand the offerings to brands, how paid promotions fit in, and how to build an effective program that includes social from the beginning, rather than adding it on after the plan is fully developed.

Go further than simply using each platform; make yourself a student of the changes that are happening each week, whether it’s the latest change in Facebook’s algorithm or Twitter’s new direct messaging option. Staying one step ahead of this for clients and for your business  is essential – not only to keep your team tactically nimble, but because the communications executive should have a strong understanding of industry trends in order to effectively act as a strategic counsel to leadership.

Strategy: Speaking of strategy, this is probably the most essential skill – and it’s the one that many younger communicators ask about. “How can I learn strategy?” is a common question, usually in response to a manager saying, “Be more strategic!” The challenge is that strategy is a vague term that may take on different meanings to different people. Indeed, it’s very common to see strategy and tactics confused, when one has to do with short-term results and activities (tactics) and the other is concerned with long-term goals (strategy). If you don’t have goals, then it’s very difficult to think strategically.

Communicators should have a keen knowledge of external market forces, competition, customer desire, business units outside of communications or marketing, and how they all come together. As you may have inferred, learning about strategy is more than reading a book or a blog post; it takes time and experience in your field. But as you begin to absorb the facets of strategic thinking, always push yourself (and your team and your clients) to focus on the why first – rather than on the how.

The good news is that for the curious and the life-long learners among us, it’s never been easier to expand your communications skills. There is a wealth of information available at your fingertips (including an email subscription to the SHIFT Communications blog) and you’re surrounded by colleagues who are sponges for information.

Are there any other skills that you think are essential for communications professionals of today and tomorrow? Let us know.

Scott Monty
EVP, Strategy

Image credit via Wikimedia Commons

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22 Apr 2015

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Firing a Client

Pack your thingsBeing fired by a client is an unpleasant situation, usually for both parties. Expectations were high at the outset, everyone was feeling good, champagne was popped, the PR machine started churning – then something happened. Sometimes it’s a positive outcome for the client, like an acquisition, that leaves the agency out in the cold. Sometimes there is internal change and a new direction or leadership that chooses to start over with their preferred firm. Sometimes it was just a bad fit and things didn’t work out quite as planned. We get it. Clients change agencies. It happens.

But what about when the shoe is on the other foot? Why do agencies fire clients? Well, first let’s acknowledge that it’s an unusual spot to be in for most agencies, but it does occur. I’ve personally had to fire a few clients during my tenure at SHIFT – one of the least enticing aspects of my job – and I’ve found that there are a few common reasons that agencies end client relationships.

Bad chemistry
We often think of this as a mostly a client concern – does my agency get me, will we work well together? News flash: we want to like our clients too! Nothing torpedoes an agency-client relationship like someone who berates the team publicly. Yelling at our staff isn’t productive or professional. It demotivates the team and generally creates a downward spiral of angst and angry outbursts. We expect clients to be professional and to measure up to our values – like honorable – too.

Another version of this is having the PR team report to a very junior person that isn’t in the loop on what’s really happening at your business. If we don’t have access to your business objectives and goals, we can’t craft a strategic (or successful) PR program that supports your business. When you delegate PR to someone without any internal “juice,” you set our team up for failure in the long run.

Or it can be not taking our advice. Not just once or twice, here and there, but repeatedly demonstrating that our counsel isn’t valued or in line with your internal culture or approach. If the agency and the client are on two different pages on how to engage with the media or how to handle crisis communications, the agency needs to beware. In those cases, the writing is on the wall that this isn’t a long-term match, especially if the client proposes something that would violate our ethics.

Conflicts
Mergers, acquisitions, new markets – these business changes often lead to an agency finding itself in a client conflict situation. These are the tough decisions that the agency has to make: which client do you keep and which do you let go? Beyond the financial implications, don’t discount other elements of the agency-client relationship (see above) or how compelling YOUR approach to that story is. All things equal on the financial side, I’d rather work with the #ballsy client that not only allows the agency to do cool stuff, but encourages us to try new things and break old rules. Be the client with whom everyone loves to work – trust me, it matters.

Financial reasons
Let’s start with scope creep or overservicing. Some clients start to expect more services (maybe they’ve added a new product line or decided to focus on another vertical market), and there isn’t corresponding budget increases to account for the additional time on those projects. It starts out as the team wanting to do right by the client and show our ability to be successful on a new front, but sometimes it spirals out of control and you can’t get the work back in line with budget. This isn’t sustainable long term and can lead to frustration and resentment all around.

Sometimes there are troubling times in the client’s kingdom and the PR or marketing team internally isn’t in the loop. And the agency’s invoices aren’t getting paid – for several months. This is a clear and straight-forward business decision. Agencies have to stop servicing clients that don’t pay. The biggest agency expense is people, and we need to make sure that clients are paying for our time.

What about you? Any other reason that you would break up with a client? Tell me your story in the comments.

Cathy Summers
Vice President

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21 Apr 2015

Why ALL the Data Matters to B2B Marketers

It just feels like data and analytics are becoming mainstream, regardless of industry or discipline, doesn’t it? We’ve been tracking the marketing industry convergence and conversation around data, and when marketers start actively talk about solving “dark social” and “gray social” – it’s for a reason. Marketers are digging deeper, trying to get to every last bit of data to understand its meaning. Why now? Why the burning urgency? Tools and access and being democratized across the business like never before, and it’s washing data over everyone.

Geoffrey Moore himself, the creator of Crossing the Chasm, spoke about this being the year for Big Data in his talk at Strata 2014 about one year ago.

If you haven’t read about it, the Chasm has five phases: Enthusiast, early adopters, pragmatists (early majority, peer influence is paramount), conservatives (late majority), laggards.

chasm

In his presentation, Moore points out that that pragmatists move when under duress and with use cases to model. To paraphrase, pragmatists get on board when they have a burning problem and their niche is active with a new solution that others are adopting. We can see this in marketing with the wider adoption of tools like Moz, Sysomos and Google Analytics.

Moore goes on to talk about how every company is a technology company, with examples ranging from retail to the New York Times. He finishes up with the notion that in today’s fast moving environment, being engaged in big data pre-chasm is a critical success factor in today’s enterprise.

Now consider what Gartner is saying about the Journey to Digital Business.

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Per Hung LeHong and Jackie Fenn of Gartner in this Forbes piece from September 2014: “Yet, as some of these technologies progress along the Hype Cycle, they will drive enterprises to become digital businesses. This is particularly true for smart machines, IoT, 3D printing and wearables.”

If Gartner is right, marketers will be driven right alongside the rest of the business.

And we can see it happening right before our eyes in the B2B technology space. From Hadoop related IPOs to NoSQL database VC funding to data container markets springing up seemingly overnight (e.g. Docker and Docker-style competitors) – the underlying technology is scaling to manage the onslaught of data that users want to wrangle. Combine that with SaaS tools for LOB leaders spanning everything from sales to procurement to HR and visualizing it through Tableau, it feels like every employee can potentially to tap into all their relevant data today.

As we’ve been discussing, marketing has an opportunity as their business turns digital. Look around your ecosystem, B2B marketers. Start asking your larger world what data they want and need from you. Design a roadmap and partner with IT to lead ahead of the chasm in your own company. The data is coming – are you ready?

Derek Lyons
Vice President, Technology Business Development East Coast

20 Apr 2015

Don’t Forget: Google Analytics Basics for PR Professionals Webinar

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We talk a lot about Google Analytics at SHIFT – both on the blog and as we integrate it as an important tool for client projects and campaigns. We want to share some more of our Analytics knowledge with you in our free webinar being held tomorrow at 2pm EST/11 am PST.

Few digital marketing tools are more widespread and more thorough than Google Analytics, but many PR pros aren’t familiar enough to make it work for them. Join us tomorrow to hear our VP of Marketing Technology (and Google Analytics certified professional) Chris Penn walk you through:

  • The top 4 metrics and KPIs are most worth paying attention to
  • What Google Analytics can and can’t measure in PR
  • An introduction to digital marketing measurement strategy
  • How to get started measuring today

Whether you’re in PR or marketing working in an agency or in-house, this webinar will be a fit. No prior experience with Google Analytics needed. You can register here.

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

 

17 Apr 2015

Top Networking Tips From a Seasoned PR Pro

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We recently sat down with Jim Joyal, Partner here at SHIFT, to talk about all things networking. He shared plenty of tips and anecdotes from his nearly 30 years in the field as well as dispelled some of the myths he’s encountered along the way. There are plenty of books out there about how to be an effective networker, but as Jim was quick to mention, it’s difficult to be an expert on the subject since every event is a snowflake and everyone you meet will have a different personality. Becoming a rock star networker involves plenty of practice with lots of handshakes and conversations.

Here’s some sage advice Jim shared for how to step up your networking game.

Going to events is not the only way to network. If you don’t go to events, that doesn’t mean you’re not a good networker. There are several ways to network that you do regularly and probably don’t realize it. For example, interviewing candidates for an open job position can be a form of networking. There may be occasions a candidate chooses to go in another direction, but your advocacy and excitement leave them with a positive impression that could then bring them back as prospects down the road.

New business meetings are an opportunity to network, too. The conversations that you have and impressions you leave in these situations will lead to associations with other people who can help you from a personal/professional perspective as well as help your agency by bringing a client on board.

As Cathy Allen, Executive VP here at SHIFT, often says: even non-work events can bring you leads. So the next time you get invited to a birthday party or barbecue, make sure to socialize because you never know who you’ll meet. Whether it’s a work event or a social one, every connection could end up meaning something more down the road.

An event’s value depends on what you’re looking to gain. How valuable an event will be is directly related to what you want to get out of it. Are you looking to get smarter? Bring back a lead? Make the most of the event by knowing your objective, doing your research and thinking about how the event can help you achieve your goal. Don’t feel as though you have to talk to high-level executives or developers if that’s not part of your goal. Set your expectations in line with your objective.

Check out who else is registered for events you’re planning to attend. When registering on websites like Eventbrite, they’ll list who’s already signed up which can allow you to prepare ahead of time. Look at the sponsor list as well since those folks often have a booth at events.

Maximize your time. Thank goodness for name tags, which often include a person’s name and where they work. If you’re lucky, it’ll even include their title. Use these clues to determine if a conversation with that individual will help you meet your objective for the event. If you’re looking to gather leads, talking with a PR intern may not be the best use of your time. However, it would be wise to speak with them if you’re company is currently recruiting. And again, try to research who’s going to be at the event and have an idea of who you want to meet.

Three questions you should always be prepared to answer. In order to put yourself and your company in the best light, think through common questions beforehand. There are three that come to mind:

  • How is business?
  • What’s your agency area or focus?
  • What makes you different?

There are no magic answers to any of these, but it is important to avoid turning your conversation into a sales pitch. From an agency perspective, it helps not only to have a quick elevator pitch in mind but also to find ways to relate what you do to their business. If you start discussing your space and working with other internal departments, people are going to begin understanding that there’s a real distinction between your employer and others represented at the event.

Answering tricky questions. Every once in a while, you’ll be asked questions at networking events that may make you squirm. This can include financial-related questions or business your company lost. For questions related to finances, refrain from revealing sensitive information. However, if it’s related to cost of services or capabilities, you can certainly direct them to a senior staff member who can provide them with more information. An acceptable response here would be, “I can get you that data. My job is really in the trenches doing the work, but I will follow up with the information you need.”

In cases where you’re asked about business your company has lost, the biggest thing is to never speak ill of a current or former client because you never know who knows who these days. Always take the high road! Focus on the positive and express that they and the team still have a great relationship with the client. If you personally didn’t work on the account, acknowledge that and simply say you’re unsure of all the details. The truth of the matter is that losing business is often due to financial rather than personal reasons.

Do you have any other tips to share from your own networking experience? If so, please share them here!

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

16 Apr 2015

Press Releases: To Use or Not To Use?

Are press releases dead?“We need to issue a press release at least once a week to maintain high visibility,” said client A.

“Press release pick-up has zero value to my business,” said client B.

Sounds like a familiar (and contradictory) refrain, doesn’t it? Depending upon who you ask, the press release is either something that’s dead and buried in the field of PR or still has its place in the media relations landscape. This is largely because there is genuine debate across the industry as to whether or not press releases are still a viable tactic for generating media attention.

It’s a fair question, as companies large and small distribute thousands of press releases every year and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on them in the process. Many issue press releases simply out of habit or because it’s long been a staple in their PR tool box.

This has led to a high volume of releases issued every single day, and as a result has given rise to media skepticism as to whether or not there is any real news being shared. Likewise, the clients issuing them face an equal challenge of measuring their efficacy at garnering true awareness. After all, when was the last time a client patted you on the back for garnering press release pick-up on 350 websites? Distributing a deluge of press releases can also have a detrimental impact on your SEO, especially since Google changed its search algorithm after it saw brands were using releases as an SEO marketing tool.

So, does this mean the press release is dead? Not necessarily. The first step in evaluating whether or not a press release should or shouldn’t be used is not to discuss press releases at all. Wait… what?

That’s right: the key to remember is that press releases are TACTICAL elements of a PR program and should be driven by your program objectives and strategy. Therefore, put the press release down, take a giant step back, and define your overall PR campaign/brand objectives FIRST. Then develop a strategy you think will help you achieve those objectives. Crazy as it may be, good old fashioned PR strategy sometimes works. Press releases and other media relations tactics should be the last element to consider.

If you decide to use a press release as a tactical component of your plan, consider whether or not you have real news to share and if a release is warranted. A tailored, compelling pitch or media advisory will often more than suffice, or even a 1:1 with a journalist and your spokesperson. If you ultimately decide a press release is warranted though, don’t forget the basics to make it as compelling as possible: what’s in it for the journalist’s audience?  Does it align with a trend? Lastly – think about ways in which you can inject creativity into the press release process. For example, rather than quoting a company executive in your release, perhaps consider doing a Periscope of the executive live-streaming the press release.

With a little effort, ingenuity and good old fashioned news to share, press releases can still be effective in generating media attention. Just don’t call them a strategy.

Alan Marcus
Senior Vice President

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15 Apr 2015

Grab That Beautiful Butterfly, It’s Conference Season

John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey may think the most wonderful time of year is wedding season, but for me – its conference season. That magical first few months that seem to map out the products, services and companies that capture our imaginations, interest or snark for the remainder of the year. Looking at the speaker line-up and cities associated with these events can feel like you are following your favorite band across the globe. If you work in the tech space, then you know the line up I’m referring to – CES, Mobile World Congress, SXSW, HiMSS, RSA Conference and Tech Crunch Disrupt among others.

Most PR/social teams cringe at conference season – the inevitable questions roll in – should we be there? Should we speak there? How many media briefings can we get? And a personal favorite: what kind of stunt can we do?

All good questions, but the reality is the answer is going to be a question back: Is this really the right show for you and how willing are you to engage the audience? Although events and social media may appear to be at the opposite ends of the old school/new school modes of marketing they share one very special success metric: engagement. If you aren’t willing to engage, participate in conversations and *gasp* be willing to listen to others, you’re likely not going to see any ROI on your attendance.

Much like your social strategy you should be looking at an event from an audience standpoint – are these your customers, your partners, your market specific media? If you just “need to be there,” you “need” to rethink that. I love conferences for what they were always meant to be – in-person networking opportunities. You talk, you laugh, shake some hands and perhaps that connection becomes a customer, partner, new employee or even a friend. As a brand at an event, it is even more important that you are willing to make that type of connection. That is the part that can sometimes be the hardest for brands to keep in mind: an event is more than something you just throw money at. It is something you invest and engage in.

Hiring a celebrity, hiring models, giving away iPads, throwing together random flash mob – this is not engagement. This is just spending your event budget. That doesn’t mean you can’t be creative, just be more strategic about it. How can you show some flash but at the end of the day still bring in actual sales or brand equity?

Here are a few interesting direct to consumer items we saw in Austin this year for SXSW:

Doing it Right & Engaging

  • DogVacay, Whistle and iFetch teamed up to put on one of the most creative happy hours I’ve seen in a while when they Rented out a bar on Rainey St (one block from the Convention Center). Proclaimed a “yappy hour,” this event showcased the products of all three brands, offered attendees the chance to recharge all gadgets while recharging themselves with a free beer and playtime with puppies ready to be adopted from local rescue group Austin Pets Alive!Why it worked: Puppies and beer. Do I need to say more? On a serious note this event was simple and on-message to the brands that organized it. Three dog product companies showcasing goods in a laid back setting while also raising awareness for a local rescue shelter. I loved this.puppies
  • Mophie, a company that makes juice pack battery cases for phones and phone chargers, partnered with the St. Bernard Rescue Foundation to provide its service to festival attendees. All the SXSW faithful had to do is tweet a screenshot of his/her dying phone battery with the hashtag #mophierescue, and they had the chance to be one of the lucky people selected to get a battery boost from a St. Bernard.Why it worked: The St Bernard is a breed known for rescuing people lost in the mountains; at an event, most people are lost without their phones.
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Doing It Wrong & Just Wasting Money

  • My mother always said if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. In that respect, I’ll keep this company nameless. A mobile tech brand deployed several branded, high-end cars (logos, streamers, bright colors) to drive around Austin acting essentially as billboards. Multiple times I heard a passerby stop and ask the driver “Hey what does (REDACTED) do?” The response each time “I don’t know, I’m just a driver.”Why this failed: I mean, c’mon! This is a huge waste of money if you are not going to take a few simple steps to identify who you are and why an attendee should care about how you are. This company could have armed its driver with a sentence or two and have them direct those interested to its website. They could have opted for the ability to scan badges and send some information post-event. The answer to the question “who are you?” should never be “I don’t know.”
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What do you love or hate about conferences? What is the best or worst event tactic you’ve seen? We’d love to hear your feedback.

Matt Trocchio
Vice President

*Full disclosure, RSA Conference, HiMSS and Tech Crunch Disrupt are SHIFT clients.