Public Relations Key Takeaways from DGS4

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Watch a replay of the Public Relations Panelists at Digital Growth Summit:

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Bob Gold, Moderator, Bob Gold & Associates - Janette Rizk, Phelps Agency - Kathleen Dunleavy, Sprint - Victoria Green, Business Wire


Traditional PR vs digital PR

What is the difference between the two PR worlds?

“Bite-sized” news and animated GIF will make your news more appealing and accessible via social media. - @KateDunl

The idea of whether or not to kill the press release is a common discussion amongst PR specialists. There are people on both sides of the debate and there isn’t one definitive answer. At Sprint, we started making our news “bite-sized” so that our news pieces are more appealing and accessible via social media platforms such as Twitter. Journalists are out there constantly patrolling the Internet and social media looking for news and we want our content to be digestible. For example, we recently announced our earnings and to help avoid the confusion over the finer details in our financial report, we presented our earnings as a fun, animated GIF. It’s probably about seven or eight slides and it talks to viewers about what Sprint did this quarter. It’s quick, bite-sized news and more accessible. We add our full-length detailed press release to the GIF so that journalists who want to research specific questions can do so. - Kathleen Dunleavy


Follow-Up: Where do you post your bite-sized news GIF? What is your most popular social media channel?

We post the GIF on our site as well as social media channels. Our most popular social media channel is Twitter. We love Twitter. Our CEO is on Twitter all of the time. We also use Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook. - Kathleen Dunleavy

Difference between traditional PR and digital is that now we have more ways to reach people. - @JRizk

The 24-hour news cycle changes things. There used to be rules that PR people lived by such as “Don’t send out a press release on Friday” or “Wait until the beginning of the day to send out the press release.” Now we time things much differently. For example, Whole Foods Market opened a store in downtown LA on Wednesday. Instead of sending out a release on Tuesday, the day before, we sent out a release last Thursday. Then we did a press event, closer to the opening, where we announced exciting news including that we were opening a restaurant with a celebrity chef in the store. At this press event, all of the journalists were present. We then set out a final push the night before to get the traditional media to show up for the opening the next day. We tried to use snackable news bites and a tiered approach to ensure that we would reach journalists and influencers, such as bloggers and instagram stars. I think the biggest difference between traditional PR and digital media is that we now have all of these ways to reach people and we can time things differently. You can break news differently. - Janette Rizk


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Is digital PR replacing traditional PR?

You work in earned media as well as digital media at the Phelps Agency for Whole Foods. Where do you live now and how do you manage both aspects?

Think about where your particular audience for your brand is living when choosing a social platform. - @JRizk

Where I live now is everywhere. Your traditional news is still important. If you are opening a new restaurant, you still want the television stations to come out and cover you on your opening day. When you are ready to launch, you still want a story in the LA Times. The social media influencers and the food bloggers; however, we still want to reach them too. I think it’s important to think about where your particular audience for your brand is living. Are they are living on Instagram or are they living on Twitter? Are you a very visual company where Pinterest might be the best place? Personally, I love Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great free tool because you can look up every journalist (most of them are on there). You can get so much information and I use it all the time. - Janette Rizk

It’s no longer just about traditional media. Consider reaching influencers. - @KateDunl

It’s no longer just about traditional media. We do the same thing at Sprint when we build a public relations strategy. We take into account how to reach supporters via traditional media because we want USA Today and CNET, etc. but we also take into consideration how to reach influencers via digital media. In particular, the right influencers for our product and our service. For example, we have a new service that will actually deliver phones to your door and includes the set-up of the phone. When we launched this service, we targeted mom bloggers because it’s the perfect service for a busy mom. You don’t have to go to the store, you get an IT expert to come to you. What we are finding as we go after these influencers is that a) It’s less expensive and b) we get a nice boost in social from these targeted posts. - Kathleen Dunleavy

We recommend bite-sized content to anyone sending out a press release. - @OhThatTori

We recommend bite-sized content to anyone sending out a press release with us. Your press release is just one component of a good PR and marketing strategy. An example of a case study would be when Amazon sent out a traditional press release and then bite-sized 140 character tweets to promote their new Amazon Fire product. Some people were only interested in the display or only interested in the processor. People were able to retweet and copy the tweets that appealed to them most, which made the content more actionable compared to the traditional press release. They also used blog posts, Facebook, etc. It is important to use what you have available to you and to transform your press release into a story. - Victoria Green

It’s important to remember that audiences shift from one social platform to another. - @BobGoldinLA

In traditional public relations, when we are going after broadcast stations, radio, newspapers, writers, digital publications, then there is a traditional relationship between a reporter and someone who is sharing some information. The very first step towards sharing information is having that information gathered in one place where it is easily digestible. We are still a society that uses textual information to learn new things, which is what we call our press release. Ideally 400 words or less. The press release is a critical component of how you explain what you do. Then we have the explosion that has occurred outside of newspapers and magazines, the digital side of social media. We are talking about the platforms that we need to connect to as a business to connect to an audience that cares and is going to be aligned with us because we have seen amazing fragmentation in the marketplace. We have seen fragmentation in viewership on hit television shows, in readership, etc. We are all moving towards a small group of people that care passionately about a particular subject. We are having an explosion of different platforms right now in digital media including LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Blogs, Snapchat, and Vine. - Bob Gold

It’s important to remember that audiences shift. Just because you are Instagram fan today doesn’t mean that you are going to stay there. I can tell you that Nickelodeon built a huge 500,000 group of Instagram followers that today is no longer an active group. They found out that their young audience, Generation Z, is moving to Snapchat and Vine. They need to be there. Instagram is yesterday for Nickelodeon. - Bob Gold

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How to pitch bloggers and influencers

How do you pitch different angles for podcasters, bloggers and other influencers so that it isn’t a generic press release?

Tailor your pitches, customize, and do your research before reaching out journalists. - @OhThatTori

Our most successful clients have built relationships with influencers. I go to a lot of events similar to this one and I listen to journalists talk about the way that they work. They talk about how they like to be pitched, what mediums they work with, what they cover, etc. One of the biggest complaints that I hear from journalists is that people do not do their research. These people pitch the journalists blindly, they don’t do their research, they don’t customize their pitch and they pitch angles that the journalist doesn’t even write on. Or they try to give the journalist a piece that they wrote the week prior and the journalist doesn’t want to write on a topic that has already been covered. If you are in PR, you need to take time to get out there and network. You need to meet journalists face-to-face and build the relationships. I know it may seem intimidating, but these journalists are not scary. They are just people. When I first started this job, I was told to go out and meet journalists. Each market is different and the levels of access are different. Last year, I tried to reach someone by email and I thought they were ignoring me so I stopped by their office to drop off the material. I said, “Hey, I want to drop this off” and I was granted access to the building. The person I was trying to reach saw me and said, “I got your email. Sorry I haven’t gone back to you, come sit down.” I have seen this man three or four times since then and he remembers that. He is the editor of the Orange County Business Journal. These people aren’t untouchable. PR people can learn more by networking and sticking themselves out there. Tailor your pitches, customize, and do your research. - Victoria Green

It doesn’t matter what your pitch is, if it doesn’t get to the right person then it won’t go anywhere. - @JRizk

I know that a lot of the entrepreneurs in the room may not have a big budget to hire an agency for PR, but there is so much that you can do at home for your own research too. Going to the news websites, pulling the contact information off. The LA Times has all of their journalist’s contact information posted now. As Victoria was saying, it’s really all about doing that research. It’s not fun, it can be tedious, but it is getting your media list. If you are working with an agency, make sure that they are focused on finding the right contacts and developing really solid media lists for you. It doesn’t really matter what your pitch is, if it doesn’t get to the right person then it won’t go anywhere. Media lists are super, super important. People get annoyed with me because I am so crazy about them, but they really are the start to getting yourself the media coverage that you want. This holds true for traditional media and for digital media. - Janette Rizk


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Best social media channel for PR

What is the most important platform for you to connect on?

Instagram. That’s where the shoppers are. - @JRizk

Instagram. That’s where the shoppers are. Great visuals, food and recipes are very visual and that’s what the shoppers want. Each of our Whole Food stores also have their own channel so they upload new photos, demos, promotions, etc. every day. Pinterest is important too, but it is not as easily accessible via phone and it is not where our audience is right now. - Janette Rizk

Monitor your social media campaigns in real-time and then make adjustments as you go along. - @KateDunl

We have a really strong presence on Twitter. A couple of things, we have a formal @Sprint handle and then @SprintNews and @SprintCare handle. This year, we also asked our retail teams to start their own handles to help accelerate the reach and the span that we have. That has been very successful for us and one of the things that we do at Sprint is that we really make sure that we are monitoring our campaigns on a real-time basis. The @Sprint handle is the more marketing handle and that is where we do most of our paid and promoted content whereas @SprintNews is more conversational and tends to be the news releases and the stories that we want to get out there. What we do is we monitor a campaign in real-time and then we make adjustments. That is one of the nice things about social is that you can make adjustments as you go along. If you find something that doesn’t work, you can go in and change it. - Kathleen Dunleavy

Journalists are using real-time apps to find a story. They want to be the first ones to put it out. - @OhThatTori

Personally, LinkedIn right now just for general professional use. Speaking to journalists and where they are going, anyone using Meerkat or Periscope? Those live feeds are extending now into journals and that is where they are going because you have the 24/7 news cycle now. Breaking news is even kind of phasing out because it’s not breaking that is important anymore, it’s real time. So if you are pitching, keep that in mind. Now LA Times is exploring these real-time apps and I think that is something that journalists are looking into right now. This is a trend that is worth pursuing. Journalists are using other platforms such as Storyful. Storyful is platform that takes what is going on virally through different channels and now journalists are starting to get verified information and photos from this site. Just an example would be when Ferguson happened, there was a photo that was tweeted out and retweeted out by credible news stations. The photo of the fire was actually a fire in Brazil and not from Ferguson, but no one fact checked. They are trying to be the first ones to put it out. Now there are these platforms like Storyful that are vetting these pictures. Storyful is one that I recommend. - Victoria Green

PR is earned media. Your story has to be interesting, so journalists would want to write about it. - @BobGoldinLA

PR is very labor-intensive. There is a lot of writing, strategy, putting together how you want to communicate, determining who your audience is, providing analytics to capture if it is working, resetting. PR is earned media, you are not buying the media generally. Earned meaning that you sold a story and someone was interesting so they wrote something about it. - Bob Gold [su_spacer size="1"]


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Turning PR engagement into sales

Is there any correlation between engagement and sales? Have we been able to monetize engagement with sales?

With PR, you will not immediately see the pay-off. It takes time. - @OhThatTori

Speaking of another member of the Business Wire team, Serena, is our Director of Digital and last year, she went content crazy. She, along with another member of our team, put out a ton of content. No one writes about Business Wire. You search us and it’s our client’s content. She created a bunch of buzz on her own. Creating this buzz translated into brand engagement. Business Wire became relevant because of this content. With PR, it is very traditional in a digital space. With PR, you will not immediately see the pay-off. It takes time. I think that is where the dividends pay off is when you put that foot forward and are proactive. - Victoria Green

Competition is good because it lets brands and customers know that there is an alternative. - @KateDunl

One way that we were very successful is by creating integrated campaigns. What we did and what that meant is that we offered AT&T direct customers a full year of Sprint for free. In order to get that message out, we did everything. We did Facebook, Twitter, full page ads in The Wall Street Journal and that proved to be very successful. It’s interesting because one of the reasons that it was successful is that we were actually able to get our competitors to engage on Twitter. If you follow Twitter and you follow the big wireless carriers, you would know that T Mobile and Sprint like to engage with each other but that AT&T and Verizon generally stay quiet. We found when we did this media blitz, AT&T and Verizon got into it with us. That kind of competition is always good for us because it lets our competitors and customers know that there is an alternative. - Kathleen Dunleavy

There should be a balance between content that people are interested in and promotional content. - @KateDunl

I think a good example of this from the agency side is with our biggest client, Public Storage. We are their digital agency on record and basically manage their entire digital presence as a brand. It is driven by a robust paid search strategy that includes content and social media. The team is also constantly measuring what is working and what isn’t. We have a consistent occupancy rate of over 95% of all spaces throughout the country. The team is constantly looking at how they can attribute that success such as lengths of stays, move-ins, clicks on certain pieces of content on the various digital platforms that they use and it’s really an ongoing process of measurement. It involves looking at all of those different tactics and how they are performing. - Janette Rizk

It is also challenging because you don’t want to be on there all of the time saying that our new pricing model today is cut your bill in half or we are going to give you this and give you that. It’s a balancing act between putting out content that people are genuinely interested in and then putting out promotional content. - Kathleen Dunleavy

Use Google analytics to look at what people are searching and use those keywords in your content. - @JRizk

These are a few tools that I think are helpful for PR people and especially for small businesses that cannot hire PR agencies. There is Hootsuite, which is a free platform and is almost like a digital Excel sheet. You can create a tab for each of your social media platforms and monitor specific handles, specific hashtags, look at how engagement is going within those, and also the analytical programs that are native to the platform (LinkedIn analytics, Twitter analytics, Facebook analytics). You can also use Google analytics to look at what people are searching for around a specific topic and use those keywords in your content and press materials to drive more search around those topics. - Janette Rizk

One and done is not how to do good PR or to drive engagement and sales. Consistency is important. - @BobGoldinLA

Engagement and sales do not have a direct correlation; however, engagement tells you the pulse of what your audience is thinking about and how to direct and drive additional content to them so real engagement means “I’m connecting with an audience that I care about, that cares about what we are doing and is going to help shape what the continuing content is about.” Consistency is also important in PR. One and done is not how to do good PR, is not how to drive engagement and is not how to drive sales. You say something, you say it again, you come back to the marketplace and you have to have a repeated strategy of connecting your message that is authentic. - Bob Gold

Relationships with reporters are critical, not just in traditional PR, but also in digital. - @KateDunl

Reinforcing the message over and over and over again. That was surprising to me when I first started doing this, I thought “We already said that.” But when you are posting tweets on Twitter, it is important to keep drumming away at that message. And one of the things I wanted to mention again, in closing, is about relationships. Relationships are so critical, not just in traditional PR and our relationships with reporters, but also in digital. It can start easily by tweeting to a reporter if you see an article that they write and it has something to do with your business. It makes a lot of sense to tweet reporters and say something like, “Hey, I really liked that article and I would love to talk to you about new developments.” What I have found is that relationships pay off in digital and social media just as well as they did in traditional media. One of the things that we do to break down that barrier, that computer screen, is at Sprint we will have mixers, information sessions, speed dating sessions where bloggers can go to different tables and learn about our products and services, etc. This is great because we get to meet people face-to-face and those relationships carry through into the digital arena and they pay off. If you have a story that relates to one of them, you can use that one-on-one connection that you have built to tell it. - Kathleen Dunleavy


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PR relationships vs content

If you were able to give a ratio of importance as far as content versus relationship, what do you think in your experience would it be?

Relationship is first & foremost. We create mixers and media events where we connect with journalists. - @OhThatTori

Relationship is absolutely first and foremost. Good content is good content. We also create mixers and media events where we connect with journalists that are invaluable. Relationships hand down. We did another event earlier this year with the Orange County Registrar where we did a media tour of their actual facilities and our clients sat down and were able to sit in on an editorial meeting. The editor said something that I now quote all the time, “Good content is platform agnostic.” So basically saying, no matter what platform you are trying to post to, if the content is worthy and newsworthy then it will work. You can’t pitch something that is redundant. If it’s content that is great, then it is going to do well. - Victoria Green


Digital PR tools

What are the new digital PR tools that you work with to enhance your PR practices?

Use tools that are built-in to platforms to learn more about a journalist that I am targeting. - @OhThatTori

I do not work for an agency or with a brand or an organization unlike the other panelists. I work with a company that offers PR as a service. We act as the middle man between you, the agency or the business, and the media. My job at Business Wire is to manage distribution such as who we are reaching, how we are reaching them and where they are going. It can be difficult to track down journalists and get them engaged. Some people will argue that you don’t need a press release or a distributor because you can send out your press via social media such as Facebook or Twitter. The problem with this method is that you can only reach so many people through your social media sites. At Business Wire, we have a distribution network that is vast and spans across multiple platforms. We offer greater visibility. For me, the tools that I use on a regular basis include a proprietary database that we built at Business Wire in addition to Contact Us pages, Microsoft, Google and Twitter. I love using the advanced tool on Twitter to perform reverse look-ups and learn more about a journalist that I am targeting. Using tools that are built-in to platforms has been my biggest asset. - Victoria Green


Public Relation Panel Digital Growth Summit