This tip is going to annoy all those PR Agencies which try and advocate separate content for all media relations, so they can charge a copyright fee for every new content distribution on behalf of their clients.

And the fifth tip?

Simple: re-use and re-distribute your PR content as many times as possible and in as many different places (online and offline) as possible. Gain extra exposure, increased content leverage, greater reach for your key messages, and – the main benefit for smaller businesses – added value for the same content across different channels and via re-usage. And no additional copyright fees.

So, how does this work? Again, it’s very simple.

You write a blog post – content position number one. Then consider this: extend it to form a press release for localised News outlets. Position number two. Tweak it slightly so it can then go to trade magazines. Position number three. Throw in some search keywords and push it out across online industry forums. Position number four. And why not also consider using the basis of the content for an email promo to your key clients too? Position number five. If its got wide enough appeal, push it across your Twitter and Friendfeed accounts too. Positions number six and seven.

Hey presto – one piece of content, slightly amended, and used in different formats and giving maximum return. Now pick up the phone and ask your PR if they’re delivering this kind of content for you today. If not – why not? Post their answers here.

Advertisements

Some interesting points made here on the EditorsWeblog, around the possible outcomes for publishers amidst the launch of Apple’s long-awaited iPad. Can iPad do for newspapers what iTunes has already achieved for music sales?

It’s a tough call. Let’s look at the basics first.

iTunes as an online business model fitted exactly where customers wanted it to be – and has continued to deliver innovation to their doorstep. More than 8.5 billion songs have been sold on iTunes to date, making it the most successful music retailer in the world. And talking of retailers, in insightful look here into the changing nature of what newspapers are providing for their readerships: it’s been argued that for news organisations to survive, they need to become news retailers – just as Apple is the middle man music retailer with iTunes.

Now, I’m not saying that publishers can’t adapt – we’ve seen attempts online, indeed, the New York Times has announced it will be taking much of its content behind paywalls, although the blogs will still be freely available.

To a large extent, audiences online still expect and demand large amounts of content for free. The FT bucked this demand early on, by introducing payment models for prime content, exclusive access rights and a premium-level offer for those customers willing to pay for market intelligence information.

This is not, however, your average online customer. People are notoriously promiscuous when it comes to brand loyalty online and where they source their News of the day. There is no concept of brand loyalty for many products and services on the web.

And, ultimately, can the iPad create that loyalty for publishers and newspapers? Only time will tell, of course.

If it comes down to the usual method, you flip the coin – I’m calling heads for Apple. They’ve already got the market covered, seeing as however News is sourced and bought online, they are providing what will probably become the preferred platform.

How’s your news publishing platform looking today – Robust? Scalable? Customer-led? Innovative? Profitable? Online, even?

No, it’s not one of those ‘Try this e-course and get rich’ blog posts. There aren’t any magic answers or selling systems on the way.

Just a few nuggets of advice for those looking to actually create some cash from the burgeoning social media platforms in 2010.

Here’s what I did.

Back in the Autumn of 2009, I consulted a digital marketing agency up North, setting up and launching a social media services division for them. The idea being to then take this to their key corporate clients, a couple of whom had already been asking for advice and inputs on such areas as generating interest from Twitter and whether a corporate blog would be worthwhile in 2010.

The social media services division included, essentially:

Social media content

Social media monitoring

Online PR

Social media participation

Social media bookmarking

Core services revolving around the basic premise that content must be the driving force for successful social media activities. Within 4 weeks, the division had been launched, following an intensive overhaul of the agency’s social media engagement: this included getting the Team writing articles for online publishing, blogging to a set schedule, tweeting across core sectors and to target audiences, social bookmarking across the main platforms including Friendfeed, and inviting clients to take a closer look.

Weeks 4-12 were essentially about putting together killer presentations, getting pitch dates set and planned in, meeting marketing managers and delivering the ‘hook & hold’ element of the social media services. And the results?

Client 1:

A leading national insurance firm. Inputted on a range of services, including corporate blogging, online PR, social bookmarking, article placement, content development, protecting brand names on Twitter and overview strategic inputs for 2010. The client had contacted the agency directly regarding assistance on social media services. Prices and strategy delivered. First sale.

Client 2:

A global brand supplier of bottled gas to domestic and commercial markets. Pitched on online PR, social bookmarking, developing a range of corporate blogs, social media content, social media monitoring and promotions across Twitter. Integration of content across multiple platforms was a key consideration. Again, the client inquired regarding utilising social media services to win more online attention, drive higher traffic, and deliver greater sales. Prices and strategy delivered. Second sale.

Client 3:

A global brand name in heating solutions and hot water technologies. Required full service solutions, across the entire range of social media, including setting up and running a number of corporate blogs, Twitter promotions, online PR, social media bookmarking, social media monitoring, and production of a colossal amount of social media content during 2010 to engage new audiences during product promotions. The pitch came about from a conversation about blogging. Prices and strategy delivered. Third sale.

So, what’s the message here? How did a senior editorial guy with limited technical expertise manage to engage three very different corporate clients for an agency, to the point where £250,000 sales were returned to the agency within 3 months?

Simple answer.

Passion and belief in the fact that social media represents the best opportunity for companies, individuals, PRs on behalf of clients and anybody who finds online content valuable as a means of communicating key messages, to deliver and keep on delivering into and beyond 2010. Passion and belief that sales will result from killer content across social media platforms.

The days of standard marketing DM pieces to a database-driven audience offline? Gone.

The days of cold-calling new customers using call random centre staff from 6-7pm? Gone.

The days of broadcasting your selling messages in the hope of an ROI at some point? Gone.

Well, not necessarily gone, You can still use these methods of course. Chances are, however, your competitors will be online, in a faster, more cost-effective, engaging and profitable way, utilising the best commercial opportunity in 20 years. Social media, baby. I saw this commercial opportunity back in 2005, when I started managing corporate blogs for UK clients.

Sorry I can’t give you the Agency or corporates’ names – protecting their commercial anonymity is an essential part of the deal. I’d say it is an interesting recent consultancy project example which may well give a few marketers food for thought. Maybe.

The proliferation of online users and accompanying social media networks in the last three years can confuse, bemuse and excite in equal measure.

There are some basic considerations for effective social media engagement. Here’s my Top 10 Commandments for social media:

1. Thou shall not spam

Whatever you do, don’t spam your customers or target markets. They won’t appreciate a barrage of poorly-researched, irrelevant and inbox-clogging spam emails. Spamming inboxes – whether it’s company email addresses, Twitter accounts or Facebook will win zero brownie points and alienate you from any further contact. Once credibility is lost, it’s not coming back anytime soon, if ever.

Hyperlinking and acknowledging external sources on your blog makes common sense.

2. Thou shall not steal

Stealing links to stories, news items, funky new websites and wonderful products from another source and passing them off as your own is a huge social media no-no. For example, on Twitter the re-tweet or RT function is an essential part of Twitequette, whilst hyperlinking and acknowledging external sources on your blog makes common sense. It engages and links you with the world.

3. Thou shall not covet your competitor’s blog

One of the most unattractive and unprofessional social media rules to break is that of taking your competitor’s content, services, products and online offerings – and copying it. And there’s a lot of it about. After all, ideas and innovation do have a commercial value. Advice? Brainstorm and generate new products and services within your own creative Team instead. It’s actually good fun too!

If you sell directly to them via your social media channels, you’ll lose them. Instantly.

4. Thou shall not sell – anything, ever

The whole point of social media is to attract and engage an audience – hopefully a significant one – who will them promote your business on your behalf. Your audience are NOT there to sell to. They are there because they value your content, insights and advice. If you sell directly to them via your social media channels, you’ll lose them. Instantly. Play it smart – give, give, give.
5. Thou shall not kill

Nothing is quite as bad in social media-land as an account which is established and then sits there. Dead. No content. Nothing contributed. Setting up a social media space, such as a Facebook fan page, Twitter feed, or company blog, and then not adding content to it regularly is a sure-fire way of killing your social media credibility in front of a global audience. Add content. Add value. Just add!

6. Thou shall not take the name of social media in vain

Remember that despite the fact social media can seem quite light-hearted, harmless and fun, your inputs on social media networks are on the web for Time Immorium. So be careful what you post. Add value, contribute to the flow of conversation. Think carefully before you post anything, anywhere, anytime, which can be viewed as an attack or negative comment in your industry.

7. Thou shall not commit adultery

Social media adultery can be committed without thinking, but the effect and long-term damage is hard to recover from. Because many social media networks operate on an informality level which standard marketing does not recognise, the rules of engagement are still the same. Remain professional, polite and polished at all times. Remember your social media content is your legacy.

Make sure you cater for your audience’s requirements, needs and wants.

8. Thou shall honour thy audience

Simple really – without an audience, your social media inputs are little more than an exercise in commercial vanity. Without followers, readers, commentators and fans of your social media content, being there is effectively a waste of your marketing budget and time. Make sure you cater for your audience’s requirements, needs and wants. It is, unfortunately, all about them.

9. Thou shall not forget the Sabbath Day

So, you think social media is a Monday to Friday exercise? Afraid not. In our 24/7, always-on, on-demand culture, social media plays an essential part of the online marketing mix, and your inputs need to cover the full seven days of the week. The good news is that you can pre-schedule posts, tweets and social media content using established tools to maintain an ever-present presence.

10. Thou shall not worship any false Gods

What this means, essentially, is that just because an individual or company has oodles of followers or friends on a social media network, it doesn’t make them God. Challenge them, make them think, debate their content, get involved. This adds to your credibility and also hooks you into the audiences of the big players. Think of it as a subtle way of piggy-backing for exposure.

OK, for the likes of Rubella Pymley-Bowles, the hapless account executive from Ostentacious PR, here’s a media relations masterclass – straight from the horse’s proverbial mouth. Hopefully, this will be useful to those looking to deliver PR too:

THE BASICS

1: Find the unique, interesting and different elements of your business.
2: Ensure you can prove any statements you make with cold, hard facts.
3: Research every publication – do not send blanket emails or editorial.
4: Remember that you need to earn a journalist’s trust and respect over time.
5: Make your press releases lively, fact-filled and relevant – not PR spin.
6: Utilise your knowledge and present your editorial with personality.
7: Do not ever mention you advertise with a publication to a journalist.
8: Remember that all News is people-based. Bring them out of your business.
9: Do not try to be controversial for the sake of it. Journalists get bored easily.
10: To hold attention, all you need to be is relevant, timely and interesting.
11: Request a Forward Features list on first contact, as and where relevant.
12: Never question a journalist’s editorial judgement. It’s their domain.
13: Remember that ‘off the record’ is usually an area of immense danger.
14: Only target relevant publications for your products or services. No spam.
15: Appreciate that the journalist is not there to serve you – other way round.
16: Do not be chatty, gossipy or unprofessional. Stay focussed and brief.
17: If you can offer fresh, new, exciting content regularly – perfect contact.
18: Track the career moves of journalists you know – build a media database.
19: Realise that most publications have online versions and online journalists.
20: Monitor target media yourself and build up a published Press portfolio.

PRESS RELEASES

21: Never make a press release more than two sides long – brevity counts.
22: Write the headline last – it should flow once the press release is complete.
23: Make sure you have one item of News only, not a series of items.
24: Utilise one key individual for your business as the quoted person.
25: Do not try to be funny, witty, smart or sarcastic – present the facts only.
26: Only use statistics if you can back them up with attributed sources.
27: Do not knock down your competitors – it’s unprintable and unprofessional.
28: Piggy-backing on a current News issue is great – if you add editorial value.
29: Ensure you supply at least one high-resolution image at 300dpi.
30: Make sure any pictures are taken professionally, not by an amateur.
31: Remember who the editor is presenting the story to – be relevant to them.
32: Never ring a journalist to ask why a press release was not published.
33: If your editorial is included, add value by presenting a Feature around it.
34: Utilise knowledge and expertise – only add opinion if totally essential.
35: Avoid PR jargon such as ‘ground-breaking’ and ‘industry-leading’ phrases.
36: A press release is like a perfectly-formed circle – end it where you start.
37: Understand the editorial structure of the publication before you write.
38: The first paragraph needs to tell the entire News item, and succinctly.
39: Be positive, upbeat and engaging in your editorial, but forget the PR spin.
40: Do not re-send the same press release. Send it once and media monitor.

DEADLINES

41: Always ask a journalist if they are on deadline. Always. Every time.
42: Understand that a journalist is busy, stressed, bombarded – help them.
43: If a journalist needs information, provide it without question or delay.
44: Do not miss a deadline given by a journalist. You get one chance at this.
45: Make your conversations to the point – ideally, only ring with one point.
46: Appreciate that you are not the Editor’s best friend, and never will be.
47: Understand that the paramount thing on a journalist’s mind is deadlines.
48: Make yourself available to give comments on deadline when needed.
49: Be consistent, reliable and a ‘safe pair of hands’ for a ‘rent-a-quote’ item.
50: Understand the publication’s deadline and editorial production structure.
51: News changes rapidly – do not be upset if a deadline removes your story.
52: Understand different deadline structures for magazines and newspapers.
53: The pace of News-gathering is increased when you deal with online Press.
54: Include a blog hyperlink with all emails – it gives more content on deadline.
55: Provide content, features, comment in one accessible place for a journalist.
56: Ensure your website has a Press area with editorial and images included.
57: Remain professional and polite when dealing with journalists on deadline.
58: If a journalist is on deadline, ask when is a good time to contact them.
59: Every journalist respects their deadlines, and so must you to gain ground.
60: Journalists will usually be more stressed and less receptive on deadline.

TALKING TO THE PRESS

61: Research the name and title of any journalist you intend to speak to.
62: Practice the conversation before you pick up the phone.
63: Never ring a journalist on deadline.
64: Always ask a journalist if they are able to speak before you continue.
65: Demonstrate you read the publication – identify different editorial sections.
66: Offer an exclusive wherever possible to the journalist.
67: Never mention competing publications, it usually winds an Editor up.
68: Ring a journalist to brief them of a relevant issue you can comment on.
69: Do not contact a journalist to see if they have received a press release.
70: If a journalist requires additional information, provide it within the hour.
71: When contacting a publication, be polite to everyone. People talk.
72: Demonstrate your expertise when possible, but do not ramble on.
73: Never interrupt a journalist – let them tell you what they want and when.
74: Add editorial value to the publication with every interaction you have.
75: Brief a journalist before you send a press release – by phone and quickly.
76: Do not invite a journalist out to lunch unless you add real editorial value.
77: Only present yourself as an expert or industry guru if you can back it up.
78: Be passionate about your business – talk to the Press from the heart.
79: Do not try to use the Press as a mouthpiece to gain column inches. Ever.
80: Work with a journalist, become a trusted source of information and ideas.

THE ESSENTIALS

81: Do not offer an exclusive to more than one journalist. Common sense.
82: Follow your target publications religiously and identify opportunities.
83: Realise that media relations is straightforward, and not a Dark Art.
84: Being in regular contact with a journalist will never guarantee publication.
85: The media landscape is changing – be aware of editorial nuances.
86: Be confident, calm and collected in your dealings with the Press.
87: Understand that successful media relations is not about PR spin.
88: If you ever lie, or mis-represent, to a journalist – say goodbye for ever.
89: Journalists are busy most of the time – but they are still human beings.
90: Have an awareness of the political leanings of a publication. It matters.
91: Do what you say you will, on time, and as agreed with a journalist.
92: If asked to provide editorial, keep to the word count requested. Always.
93: Journalists know what they want and need – do not second guess them.
94: Never mention that you used to be a journalist. It is totally irrelevant.
95: You might think you can outsmart a journalist. Wrong – it’s their rules.
96: PR schmoozing holds an increasingly useless impact to the Media.
97: Sending flowers, free gifts and the like rarely influences publication.
98: Do not be nervous or stuttery – present the facts and the angle. Simply.
99: Always back up your information with reputable sources and facts.
100: Remember that your News is useful, but not invaluable, to the Press.

RULE NUMBER 101: Never, ever, break Rules 1-100.

A quote which just about sums up British offline publishing at times for me, from this story over the weekend.

The departure of Greg Hadfield, head of digital at Telegraph Media Group marks another nail in the coffin for the mainstream Press in the UK, but also highlights ongoing issues for offline content producers and distributors as a whole in this country.

The fact that Hadfield is off to join a cool, funky, contemporary agency and partner with some of the top Brands in delivering new and innovative content-based digital solutions also proves that journalism and entrepreneurship can co-exist. Or they should.

Let’s face it, if you’re a content producer – whether that’s a Hack, commercial copywriter, business editor, newly-qualified journalist or similar – and your offline medium is being continually cut to pieces to extinction, what would you do? Stay on board until the last editorial liferaft has set sail for digital safety, or re-invent yourself, learn new skills, get online and secure a career?

No brainer, really. And the future does actually look bright for agencies and individuals which are embracing digital  and getting online. Pretty simple business concept: go where your customers are. Give them what they want, when and where.

Hadfield went onto say:

“The future is much more diverse. There’s not a dichotomy between being a journalist and an entrepreneur – the future is the individual journalist, not big media. The challenge is for big, monolithic media to recognise that being entrepreneurial is corporate ethos, to reflect in the structure to leverage the skills of the individual within the organisation.”

Here’s a guy I respect and admire – aswell as the agency he’s left the Telegraph Media Group for. Interesting times, indeed.

…on a number of levels.

Cutting right into the Haiti earthquake coverage, as discussed here, it’s been clear over the last 24 hours that the impact and reach of social media tools – where standard journalism techniques have failed  – is proving further to uncover the power of social media in our lives.

Not just for chat. Not just for networking. Not just for promoting products and services. But for reporting on events, for being a window to the world on the horror of another natural disaster. We’ve seen social media platforms transformed in the last year on more than one occasion, and in doing so, our eyes have been opened to another level of possibilities.

So, when one of your clients, friends, or the hardened Hack sitting next to you in the newsroom says “What a waste of time” the whole social media world is, maybe it might be worthwhile to remind them of today’s inherent value given via social media.

Here’s an example of connecting online at the very deepest human level. Bravo.

The debate rages on here today, and it’s a cracker.

The traditionalists standing their ground, claiming they create and break the news stories of the day. The online avante garde reiterating the growing importance of platforms such as Twitter in reporting news stories way, way before the newsroom hacks even smell the story. Why is it important? Does the average News consumer really care where their content comes from?

We’ve already seen the lack of loyalty in audience number as hundreds of thousands leave the traditional act of buying a newspaper in favour of free online News instead. The younger generation continue to shun newspapers, catching up online.

The social media platforms rise and rise in influence – breaking stories across Twitter have become the norm, with offline journos left clutching at their latest twitter feed to create their own content version. News replication is rife and rising.

Stalwarts continue to support their offline newspaper brands – and the magazine market has seen a drift of loyal readers to faster, funkier, free online variants.

What is clear from the excellent Guardian article is this: unless we take our content TO the audience in the places they want it, making and breaking News rapidly becomes a secondary mission to actually keeping the publication alive in business terms.

Think relevance. Think positioning. Think audiences online. Forget everything you knew and try something different. Now.

Been thinking about this, as we roll into a new year and editors get hit with PR pitches from Agencies with new clients.

There was this awful example of PRs using controversy to court media coverage recently – it backfired to the point the advertising campaign was pulled. Let’s face it, claiming that career women make bad mothers is bound to attract press attention, but at what cost to the integrity of the client?

Another example of PRs courting controversy to win column inches came from the www.beautifulpeople.com camp, too. The management allegedly removed 5,000 members from their exclusive online dating site after New Year, stating they were ‘too fat’ to be considered beautiful enough for membership of the site.

Some claimed it was a brilliant PR coup, gaining the site global coverage online, on radio news slots, newspaper and magazines et al. The difficulty was, following the rush of media interest to the site, the management had a sub-standard server in place, thus effectively stopping the press from seeing what all the fuss was about.

The site itself is, actually, far from ‘beautiful’ it would appear on later inspection. A PR coup? More like short-term, 1-hit wonder PR coverage. Hardly inspiring for the media, the potential customers or future potential ‘beautiful’ online daters who might have considered subscribing to the online service.

It’s the longer-term, well thought out and planned, genuine ‘hook & hold’ PR campaigns which make a difference to the media: the ongoing stories of human interest, the different, unusual, unique and amusing. These win over the Press every time.

Not vain attempts to pull visitors to a PR client’s site on the basis of negative controversy. A massive thumbs-down, guys.

Let’s face it, we’re being dumbed-down enough as it is, without elitist, shallow and vainglorious attempts such as this being forced onto the airwaves, internet and offline news pages. My old journalism lecturer would be shaking his head, I am sure, having spent decades passing on the basic editorial wisdom of ‘News IS people’ to many thousands of media students.

Authentic or corporate?

January 7, 2010

In terms of your online voice, an interesting question.

Following meeting the guys at funky digital Agency Yucca today, we discussed this poser amongst other things. And it can be a minefield, of course.

If – like Yucca – you’re a cool, young and savvy operation, with a great client base, some stunning corporates on board, as well as quite an edgy Brand, the question of what tone of voice to have online can be tricky.

The Yucca example is a good one: they have maintained an authentic, but knowledgable, voice online, via their blog and twitter feeds. Not an easy task, after all, the pressures to deliver a voice which is more pleasing to a corporate ear must be tempting to any developing and growing Agency which is attracting the attenton of some heavyweight marketing directors in corporate UK boardrooms.

However, authenticity does, of course, have its own value, as the Yucca management team have discovered. Whilst there is a time and place for corporate language, it all comes down to the requirements of the target audience, doesn’t it? They’ve certainly got no qualms about delivering fresh, original, authentic content to their audience. Not all regional Agencies are as brave.

Authenticity is a scarce commodity these days: just look at the anodyne corporate blogs out there, the hollow twitter feeds being delivered by PRs for clients, the dry and brittle blogs which are being updated weekly. Nothing authentic, Nothing inspiring. Nothing to make one think, get creative, be informed, educated, entertained. Basically, nothing to make the reader stay.

Checking out the Yucca blog, there is a real slice of life there: the Christmas party, for example, the building of a snowman: it gives an authentic slice of life in the Agency, which brings us the audience closer to the team and how they interact in real-time.

I think this is hugely valuable in these anodyne times. It shows us that authenticity is still alive. Still surviving.

So, the next time you feel pulled between using an authentic online voice and going ‘corporate’ to try and write what you think you should…my advice is simple. Authenticity rules, every time. Bravo Yucca, keep it authentic, the blog‘s a fantastic read. It’s also great to see creatives delivering awesome work outside of Soho – proving, again, what a powerhouse Bristol really is.

Attitude. Insight. Expertise. Passion. Authenticity. When these things are lost, what hope is there for the creative industries?