Tuesday, October 19, 2010

KDFW Channel-4 Pokes Fun of Social Media

Our local FOX affiliate station, KDFW, took a brilliant tongue-firmly-in-cheek swipe at social media in a fun video that was posted to their Facebook page with the title: Social Media Bit - Lone Star Emmys

This is a fantastic example of allowing yourself (even you media outlets) to have a personality. Let your community know you're human and that at times you don't have to take yourself too seriously. Thanks FOX 4 for the fun reminder. Well done.

Remnants to revitalized PR; chatting with Brian Solis

Image representing Brian Solis as depicted in ...Image via CrunchBaseEarlier this evening I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call conversation with Brian Solis along with a handful of other DFW bloggers. We were invited to ask some questions of Brian who will be the lunch keynote speaker at the Dallas PRSA Communications Summit this Friday, October 22. 

As a professional communicator, I was thrilled to have a chance to learn from such a respected thought leader of new media and prolific author.

Below are the topics our little cadre of questioners narrowed down along with summary responses from Brian Solis:

What are the key differences between PR 1.0 and 2.0, and how can someone educate themselves?
The depth of knowledge, experience, and passion for peer-to-peer need to be in the I-have-to-learn-category for professionals. It's beyond pitching and placing; it's about moving individuals. It means realizing that we need to connect with humans that shape markets. This dynamic understanding of digital influence is what he believes will bring PR back to life.

(I recently ran across a video Brian Solis did with Chris Beck and 26 Dot Two about branded content called  The great advertising disconnect. "The last mile") What are some things PR people need to focus on today to reach that "last mile" of engagement?
Brian smartly pointed us to his blog post, The Last Mile: The Socialization of Business along with his series The Hybrid Theory Manifesto: The Future of Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (Parts One, Two, and Three) to give us a framework on his vision. He has provided his call to action or at least attention the fact that there is a gap that isn't being filled by PR. Advertising firms are bringing PR into the fold because they recognize the necessity and wisdom reaching and activating the influential individuals. (As an aside, this portion of the call intrigued me the most and warrants further research.)

Can you tell us a little about the premise of your book, Engage? What is the importance in it for PR/social media folks?
Brian responded that basically where he is now in his professional life is entrenched in the realm of organizational restructuring. He said his new book, Engage, is written with the executive suite in mind. "There are so many champions, we need more leaders," said Solis. There's an important lesson for PR people here: we need to be leaders.

How do you measure the value of engagement and report that back to your brand?
In measurement and reporting, you must start with the end in mind. Every aspect of social media is not created equally, nor are friends, fans, communities, etc. When you know who you are talking to, you can segment the story. Ultimately, we measure engagement based on the predefined objectives we want to accomplish. (In other words it's the seeing, clicking, doing that tells us we're winning.)

Brian Solis left us with some additional thoughts as he noticed one of our bloggers was doing a bit of live-tweeting during the call. The real-time updates triggered some final words of wisdom from our call:
  • Consumers have become empowered. 
  • There are audiences within audiences. 
  • The balance of power has shifted. 
  • IF you can inspired others to follow and share, you are on the right track.
If you are in the DFW area on Friday, October 22, consider joining the Dallas chapter of PRSA for their annual Communications Summit: "Engage. Educate. Elevate." In addition to Solis, they have another great line-up for PR pros.
I look forward to reading what the other bloggers zeroed in on from the call. Be sure to check out posts from Alyssa Gardina, Elysa Rice, and Eddy Badrina. (Also, special thanks and hat tip to Kai Stansberry, Lauren Fernandez and Chad Sour for the invitation and getting this call organized.)
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Matte Releases: PR Branded Content for the Newbie

LA TimesImage via WikipediaHave you ever heard of matte releases? I'll be honest, I've been in school public relations for nearly ten years and that particular phrase never came up. So when it came up in an e-mail and subsequent conversation I was intrigued.

The matte (or mat) release is a consumer or community-related article that newspaper editors can run when they want additional content for their publication. This branded content from an organization is generated specifically for distribution through a syndicated service in the hopes of reaching multiple news outlets and thus a wider audience.

This caught my attention because I've seen articles that fit this description written by the PR person at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center (MMMC) show up in the Mansfield News-Mirror (a weekly newspaper owned by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

After reading one such article a while back, I contacted Angel Biasatti, Director of Marketing, Community Relations and Public Affairs at MMMC, and asked her some questions hoping she'd share how she uses matte releases:
How useful are the matte releases to you and your communication strategies? They are very helpful and assist Methodist Mansfield Medical Center in reaching individuals in our community and beyond to provide helpful health information.
Have you had success with using this type of branded content? Absolutely. Many of the community newspaper and magazine editors use our matte releases monthly to supplement staff-written stories to provide helpful health information to the public. With newspaper staffs being cut and spread thin, the content Methodist Mansfield provides is becoming an essential editorial tool.
How do you define success when using a matte release? We measure success in a number of ways – from formal methods such as community perception surveys to informal measures such as positive comments and feedback from community members.
What about items that do not get published, are those re-purposed online? Absolutely. All of our articles are posted on our website along with links to our health library at www.MethodistHealthSystem.org. We also distribute them to other online sources we feel might use them.
I figured it might also be helpful to know what an editor thinks about matte releases. I reached out to Amanda Rogers, editor of the Mansfield News-Mirror, and asked if she thought this type of branded content could be beneficial. Her response:
It is useful, especially for large community entities like the hospital, city and school district. It would give you another outlet and the paper another way to connect with the community.
Expanding reach with the evolved matte release
It is certainly easy to see the value in getting this type of branded content in the hands of consumers and your community through the media. It is also something that companies can help you accomplish with more efficiency and reach that you could possibly do on your own. One such service is ARAcontent. In her post, The Evolution of PR Branded Content, Deirdre Breakenridge shares some thoughts on this service:
ARAcontent entered the fray in 1996 and “automated” the matte release process by creating a system for electronic selection of articles by editors at newspapers and web sites. ARAcontent specialized in professional content creation to highlight a company’s products and services that is distributed and placed in top media outlets. In 2010, ARAcontent is further digitizing the release of feature articles through an increased focus on media web sites and backlinks to client sites.  Content is search engine optimized and the company also helps to generate real engagement with consumers via social media.
These SEO benefits and backlinks along with the top-tier placement through ARAcontent could be an answer for a company or organization from a tactical perspective.

An ARAcontent spokesperson showed me how a national home décor company created a matte release using the company’s tools in order to increase search engine visibility for keyword phrases around a line of children’s bedroom décor offerings. Among the results were 291 recognized backlinks, 514 online placements in one month period with an online ad value of nearly $240,000 to go with some great Google-juice for tracked phrases giving them the left they were seeking in keyword rankings.

(Of course, there are others that provide similar services and comparable paid placement reach such as PR Newswire, North American Precis Syndicate and News Force Network among others.)

On your own or through a service, the matte release could be worth your time and careful research if you haven't already. Dust off those writing skills and prepare something that will resonate with your consumers or community. Figure out if this little-known (or often ignored) PR tool is worth your time.
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Crisis communication and the saving speed of info

It has been a week since a gunman took his own life at the University of Texas and vaulted the campus community into a panic albeit relatively briefly all things considered. I watched, as did many, as an outside observer hoping this was in a fact isolated to a single random actor who for whatever reason made some tragic choices that day.

As with anything that happens in today's hyper-connected world, we watched as the events (campus evacuation, lockdown, search and press conferences) unfolded in the media as well as through individuals using social media channels.
Photo: APD evacuating students from UT-Austin campus building.  on Twitpic

Communicators should stop being surprised at seeing as-it-happens information or images being shared from the scene like the one shared at right from KUT Radio or the photo gallery that the Austin-American Statesman was updating as the day progressed. It wasn't even surprising to listen to live call-in interviews with students being held inside a locked-down building. These are all part of the new reality for crisis response and communication. 

All of those things are secondary to a well-trained crisis response team.

What was gratifying was hearing students mention receiving text messages from UT on the situation. Also the fact that emergency e-mails and voice mails were distributed from UT made its way to the media outlets almost as fast as the news of the type of weapon being used by the shooter.

So let's give credit where it's due: through the coordinated efforts of University of Texas and the Austin Police Department. As pointed out last week in the TSPRA blog,
"UT officials were able to activate warning sirens on-campus, send text messages to students and faculty and distribute emails instructing those on-campus to lock down and those off-campus to stay away, within roughly 15 minutes of the first calls to police. "
During his first press conference during the active investigation for additional shooters, Austin Police Chief, Art Acevedo commended the "UT campus, UT police, and communication system to get information to students, secure the campus, and mobilize quickly. Students did their part; they cleared the streets, cleared the campus...my hats’ off to them all."

Being able to share information quickly is what saved the situation at UT last week. How quickly are you prepared to share? When was the last time you dusted off that crisis communication binder? What are some lessons learned? As always, the comments are yours.
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