My best bookmarks from the last two years

[tweetmeme source ="brooke_nolan"]

I have a very bad habit of bookmarking things and then never getting around to looking at them again.

Over the last two years this has resulted in hundreds of bookmarks and favourites – otherwise known as a big, unorganised mess.

This week I’d had enough and decided to sort them out.

I found some gems – here’s some links I found that I just had to share:

SOCIAL MEDIA:

1. Behind the scenes of 8 social media campaigns:

This post can’t fail to get you excited about the potential of social media. From the talented peeps over at Mashable, it gives 8 examples of innovative and successful social media campaigns which have captured their target audiences’ attention and generated some great results for clients.

2. What the f**k is social media

Does your boss (or you?!) still need convincing of the validity of social media? This no-nonsense slideshow is just what you need. It contains some impressive statistics and examples – though it is two years old now so it might be a bit outdated.

3. Seven deadly sins of social media

I’m a sucker for a list – and I love this one. It gives us the seven ‘deadly sins’ of social media including ‘Deafness’, ‘Phoniness’ and ‘Greed’.

4. Fifty digital resources you might have missed

Another great post from Mashable. This mammoth list gives you 50 resources worth reading including ‘How to make a 3D YouTube video with two cameras and a roll of sticky tape. I can’t wait to try that one!

PUBLIC RELATIONS:

5. Nissan’s online news room

WARNING: This post will make you want to work for Nissan. It talks about the company’s in-house newsroom which creates and develops news for the brand across all platforms, from video to print. In my opinion – all brands should be striving for this, or at least taking elements of it. A great, inspirational read.

6. Big list of free press release sites

I don’t use these sites, but they can be useful as an additional tool when selling in news releases.  This post lists LOADS of sites which you can upload your releases to for free.

7. How and why to write SEO releases, plus where to submit them:

SEO should be a skill which every PR pro is willing to learn – and it should be built into all content you create which may find itself a home online. This article is a great crash course into why SEO is so important, and how to use it for press releases.

8. Times Style Guide

Every newspaper and magazine has its own particular style, and PRs should always try and take note of these. It’s also worth having you own ‘house’ style. If you’re still trying to implement one then this could be a good post to refer to.

PHOTOGRAPHY:

9. Photography challenge:

I have a secret desire to become a photographer. Two things stand in my way; a lack of decent camera and a lack of talent. When I get these things, I will definitely be doing this challenge from the White Peach Photo blog. It gives you a photography challenge every day for 30 days – from ‘Self Portrait’ to ‘Clouds’.

OTHER:

10. Top 16 UK marketing blogs

Looking to expand your blog repertoire? Well, look no further. This post offers up 16 of the UK’s best marketing-focused blogs.

Are there any gems hidden in your bookmarks? If so, share them here.

Bloggers are human – and yes – we make mistakes!

[tweetmeme source ="brooke_nolan"]

Like many people in the PR industry I read a lot of blogs.

I have the ones I read on a regular basis, as well as those that I stumble across on Twitter and Facebook.

The thing I love the most about blogs is the abillity people have to comment – to add value to a debate or a topic and help spark even more interest than the original post itself.

Or at least thats my idea of what comments are for – but apparently not everyone feels the same.

During my rounds today I found three comments on different blog posts – all pointing out mistakes which have been made by the blogs author.

Some were grammatical mistakes; others were statements or sentences which could perhaps have been written a little more clearly.

The comments weren’t written in a friendly way – they were rude and you could tell the people leaving them were feeling smug at the fact that they had spotted an error.

Now, I know that blogs should be correct and anyone in PR who makes a grammatical error should know better.

But do you know what – it happens! Get over it!

Why feel the need to leave a smug comment about it?

I also spotted a post on one of my favourite social media blogs which had – shock! Horror! – not one, not two, but THREE spelling mistakes.

Did I leave a rude comment chastising the author? Or did I think; “You know what, I bet they wrote that in 10 minutes in-between client meetings, phone calls and drafting copy for a deadline, so let’s give them a little slack shall we?”

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t call people out on errors (especially if they are factual errors) – indeed in some ways its a good thing. As an author you can then correct it and make sure you pay more attention next time.

But I don’t think it should be done rudely – and you should still add more to the conversation than just “oh, by the way, you’ve spelt that wrong.”

So, the moral of my rant is that mistakes DO happen! It’s making sure they don’t happen again, and how you handle the mistake that makes the difference.

Here are some tips:

1). Always approve negative comments on your blog, or ones that call you out – unless they are overly rude, personal or use bad language. Then craft your reply carefully. If someone points out an error thank them for there eager eyes and make a note not to make the same mistake again.

2). Get your work proofed. Part of my role as a manager is to proof any work drafted by other members of my team. But equally I always ask our account executive to proof my work. I’m human, mistakes happen, and sometimes you get too ‘close’ to your work to realise your making mistakes.

3). If you make a factual mistake, or you alter your post significantly after people have commented, always let your readers know you’ve made the change.

I’ve made six errors on purpose in this post (here’s hoping you don’t find more than that!). Let’s play ‘Call me out’. Go on – get it out your system!

What can Lady Gaga teach you about PR?

Lady GaGa on stage at the Radio 1 Big Weekend

[tweetmeme source ="brooke_nolan"]

Last weekend saw Europe’s largest free ticketed music event take place – Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Carlisle. Alas, I wasn’t lucky enough to be there, but curiosity got the better of me and I couldn’t help but check out online some of Sunday’s headline performance from Lady Gaga.

She is one of the most outlandish mainstream performers the world has seen in a long time – yet the public love her.

Some clients can be afraid of anything which is too ‘out there’. But, whatever your opinion of her, perhaps Lady Gaga is proof that people are a lot more open than we think.

So, with that in mind, here are five things PR pros can learn from her:

1). Be inventive

Lady Gaga appeared on stage in a coffin, wearing a PVC cat suit and a plastic baby bump. Odd, yes. (Although perhaps not a patch on some of her other outfits – meat dress anyone?!). Her approach is certainly creative. And creativity and innovation is something which in PR we should have in abundance. We should be able to come up with inventive, innovative, yet viable, ideas for clients at the drop of a hat. Take the time to regularly brainstorm with your team – come up with ideas which aren’t restrained by budgets or client briefs. Even if you don’t use the ideas they are still useful for keeping that ‘creative on-switch’ working, as well as providing a bank of material when your campaign needs a vital dose of ‘oomph’.

2). Don’t go too far – unless you can handle the repercussions

Usually shrouded by glowing reviews, Lady Gaga’s ‘Alejandro’ video has caused outrage in some circles, with MTV asking ‘Has she gone too far?’ The controversial video features sexual and religious imagery which is a bit too much for some people’s taste. Although creativity is important – it is also important to remember that it’s subjective. Think about your audience – will they find it amusing, exciting or insulting?

3). Support what you believe in  

Lady Gaga is mostly seen in the press for her weird and wacky dress sense, and for hit single after hit single – but she’s also been in and out of the papers for her charity work. Charity partnerships are a great way for any brand to raise awareness of itself, get in the public eye, and build compassion. Lady Gaga’s charity work includes quitting Facebook for the Keep a Child Alive charity, designing a charity bracelet for the Japanese earthquake appeal, and performing at a benefit concert for the Robin Hood Foundation.

4). Be current

Splashed across the press after her appearance last weekend was Lady Gaga’s homage to the royal couple, Kate and William. The singer dedicated a cover of Nat King Cole’s classic jazz tune, Orange Coloured Sky to the couple and admitted that she wished she’d been part of their big day. Linking into the news agenda and ‘piggy-backing’ onto the hype surrounding current affairs is a great way to gain more coverage for your clients, and something all good PR pros should be able to do.

5). Always exceed expectations   

Lady Gaga was half an hour late to the stage – leaving many fans wondering where the loyalty was. Always strive your utmost to meet client expectations – and where possible exceed them. This should be across all aspects of your campaigns; great ideas and amazing content count for nothing if you’re always late or never keep promises.

What makes a great press photo?

[tweetmeme source ="brooke_nolan"]

Earlier this month I attended a free photography workshop hosted by TNR Communications, part of the Press Association.

The workshop set out to “give a real insight into how to get national picture desks to run your PR photographs.”

I’d highly recommend the workshop – it was a great insight into one of the UK’s busiest news and picture agencies – and they illustrated the presentation with some really strong picture examples, as well as offering valuable insight into the day-to-day workings of a picture desk.

Here are some top tips from the day, to help make sure you get that perfect press shot – and the coverage it deserves:

1). Track record is important

Make sure that the photographer you use has a strong track record in securing national coverage for their photos – even if you have to pay more for it. They should have an intuitive eye and know what a national paper is looking for and how to get it. They should also know how to distribute photos – if you have no connections it can be hard to get your photo seen by the right people. Make sure they also offer solid insight and knowledge into the best times to send photos and the best resolution, file size and photo captions.

2). Know what picture editors want

When pitching photo stories, picture editors are your audience not newsrooms – you need to understand them. You need to know what they’re looking for and how they operate. Avoid clichéd photos (smiling business men holding big cheques are most definitely a no-no!) And remember that news is about people – the photos needs to reflect this.

3). Be more creative

Picture editors at national newspapers are inundated with photos – over 20,000 per day, and this is climbing everyday thanks to the rise in digital photography and citizen journalism. For a PR story to gain coverage this way it needs to be imaginative and eye-catching. Think of the wider story, and come up with creative ways of capturing it. If the story allows it try and be fun and humorous. And remember – a picture editor only sees thumbnails on screen – and hundreds of them at that. Your photo needs to be pretty special to stand out.

4). Try and sum up the story

An ideal photo for national press will sum up the story in one go. Even if you need to stage a shot which does this, then it could well be worth it. Often, strong photos aren’t run with a full story – just a photo caption. Make sure that your picture tells the story you want it to.

5). Manage branding

From a PR’s perspective getting branding into a photograph in the nationals is the holy grail of success. From a picture editors perspective it’s a nightmare. Try and find a happy medium – you can get away with branding but only if it looks natural within the setting of the photo. Don’t go overboard, and don’t try and make your branding the focus. Doing that will simply result in your photo not being used – or your branding being cut out.

6). Planning is vital

If you are planning a photoshoot or a photocall you must plan before hand. If it’s in a public place visit the site first; how busy is it? Is it too crowded? Can you get the right angles? Think about the environment and the background. What will be in your frame? If possible take your photographer with you – if not, take a digital camera and take a few snaps. You want your photoshoot to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible so planning is vital. You don’t want people hanging around on the day while you look for the perfect spot, or try to avoid the crowds.

7). Be aware of the news agenda

Pay close attention to the news agenda and time your photos well. Royal weddings, holidays, Wimbledon, hottest day of the year – all of these things can offer you hooks to get that perfect photo. BUT, it’s also worth sometimes going against the news agenda. For example election time, when picture editors are bombarded with man-in-suit after man-it-suit, it could well be worth doing something dramatically different to offer some light refreshment.

8). Move quickly

Once your photo has been taken get it re-sized, captioned and sent ASAP. But make sure that you pay attention to timings. Don’t send it on a Friday, and avoid afternoons if possible. The best time is around 10am in the morning. It’s also worth trying a Sunday morning – papers are often lacking content for Monday’s paper.

For some examples of great press photos check out TNR’s gallery.

Photo by graur razvan ionut

5 communication ‘dont’s’ for 2011

[tweetmeme source ="brooke_nolan"]

As it’s the start of a brand new year, most people are busy making positive predictions and resolutions for 2011.

But, as I’m a complete pessimist at heart, here’s my list of things you SHOULDN’T be doing in public relations this year.

1. Don’t be ‘on’ social media:

It has been said by many that 2010 was the year that social media really took off. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr – 2010 was the year that you HAD to be seen to be using these channels, and many more besides. But simply being ‘on’ these channels – and by that I mean you’ve set up a profile page with a nice bit of blurb about you or your business, a flattering profile picture and the odd sales tweet/post/video – isn’t enough. If you’ve set these channels up but aren’t utilising them for customer or peer interaction – ala Tesco’s Twitter feed – then they really aren’t worth having at all. Work out what you want to achieve (higher brand profile, a communication channel for customer queries), look at what your competitors are doing, listen to your customers and then spend time on putting together a plan – and investing the time – to make these channels work for you.

2. Don’t give up on traditional media:

Yes, traditional paper and magazine circulations are dwindling rapidly. But I for one firmly believe that they are, and always will be, here to stay. And although social media and online publicity is definitely where communications is headed, there is a lot to be said about the power of a really strong piece of coverage in the correct publication. Local newspapers seem more receptive than ever to targeted content, and there are also many niche trade publications, catering for sectors across the board, which have strong and loyal readers. Also, if you target traditional press you’re usually killing two birds with one stone, with most print coverage appearing online too.

3. Don’t cut your marketing budget (too much):

I hate to use the dreaded ‘R’ word – but even a couple of years since it first hit, the recession is still biting many companies hard. And with the public sector cuts happening this year, and the knock on effect that will have on the private sector companies which supply them, it looks like this year may be one of the hardest yet. One of the first departments to be hit is usually the marketing department and all that falls under that banner – PR, advertising, online, internal comms. Cuts need to be made but it is often companies which are investing in their marketing departments – and therefore their reputation – which reap the benefits.

4. Don’t get stuck in a rut:

It’s very easy to continue your marketing and communications strategy as you always have done. But is it really working? It is important to evaluate last year. What worked and what didn’t? Do you need to invest more (or less) time and/or money in particular areas? There are new communication channels opening up every day – why not explore these and see if they fit into your strategy for 2011? For example – perhaps you’ve always focused on magazine advertorials and haven’t yet branched into blogs or online forums? Consult experts for their opinions but also consult your staff (across the company – not just the marketing team). What do they think of the firm’s communications strategy? What reactions do they get from the people they deal with on a day to day basis? Where do people hear about you?  Use this feedback to structure your comms plan for the year ahead – ensuring you’re investing in the areas which will give you the most return. 

5. Don’t think communications is quick, or easy:

In 2010 there was a lot of talk about the return on investment for both traditional PR and also social media. But unfortunately it’s not always a simple equation which can be tracked to the bottom line. People don’t always ‘like’ your Facebook page, read your news article or visit your website and then instantly purchase your products or services. I hate to use the cliché but sometimes ‘background noise’ is important. It takes time, and consistent and quality material, to build up a reputation online and in the press.

How to get great PR for your event

A client has an event coming up and you’ve been tasked with publicising it.

What’s your approach?

  1. A brief paragraph outlining the event sent to a few key journalists for their diary pages?
  2. A press release with event details and a quote from your client sent to every journalist in a 100 mile radius?
  3. OR a full-page feature in the relevant section of a publication which is in the event’s immediate catchment area?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out what the best option is. And the good thing is – if you’re holding an event, then you most likely already have ample material to make a feature happen.  

After all, if you’re planning on keeping people’s attention for an afternoon, or even a full day, then your topic must be fairly interesting!

So, how can you make this approach work for you?

You already have your topic:

If you’re holding an event, then you already have your content. If it’s an advice seminar then draft a feature which tackles the main issues, and then offer hints and tips on how to overcome obstacles. If it’s a debate then it’s even better – do a pro and con piece with first person pieces from each spokesperson.  

Example:

 A client recently sponsored a debate on a controversial rural business funding programme. The area’s main newspaper was approached and a full-page ‘for’ and ‘against’ article appeared. It featured arguments from the key-note speakers along with a quote from the client, and event details. This was pitched to the rural section editor.

Make it even more local:

News is about people – and a feature is even more likely to be commissioned if you can show real life local examples.

Example:

A client was offering a free event, in two different locations, on the benefits of working from home. By finding a relevant case study of home-based businesses in each area and using them to illustrate the topics which would be covered in the event, two features were secured – one in each target area. This was pitched direct to the business editors.

Don’t be biased:

Perhaps the topic is there but your client can’t add enough weight to make it stand as a topic on its own? Involve third parties. Not only does this give the journalist a better and less biased article, but it also gives you an opportunity to hunt out a potential new business lead.

Example:

A firm of solicitors was offering free advice clinics to families whose child was suffering from a health condition. By partnering with the condition’s main national charity and including a case study of a real local family who had been affected, a double page feature was secured in the paper in the solicitor’s key catchment area. By pitching it properly to the journalist, a legal fact box was included complete with clinic details, website and phone number. This was pitched to the health and lifestyle editor.

Statistics:

To some extent the event is what makes the piece newsworthy, but this can sometimes be a tenuous link, even with case studies and advice. What statistics can you find which back up your points? Make sure they’re from a reputable source and as localised as possible. Contact local industry bodies if necessary.

Choose your publication and section:

Where is the event being held, and how much of a pull will it really have? In my view, most events, unless they are huge industry affairs only pull in delegates from a 20 mile radius of the venue. Target the publication with the biggest and most relevant circulation – and preferably one with a strong online presence. Make sure you know the publication – if it’s a business event approach the business editor, a health story approach the health editor etc.

Pitch it properly:

This isn’t a hit send on an email and keep your fingers crossed job. Phone the editor responsible for the section you feel the story is most suitable for and explain who you are and what the feature will include – explain that it will be an exclusive for them and that it will be completely  localised.

If they’re interested, explain the structure you’d like the article to take – do they have any concerns or suggestions on this? How many words would they like? What date can they publish and when would they like the copy? What about photos? You can hopefully provide some but are they happy to take one of the case study if necessary?

After the conversation, if they’ve said yes to the feature, send a synopsis outlining the agreed publication date, the deadline date, the word count, who will be providing the photography and also detailing, in bullet points, what will be included and the structure it will take. Make sure you follow this when it comes to drafting the article so you give the journalist exactly what was agreed.

Deliver it on time:

You’ve already shown that you understand what their readers want. Don’t undo all of that hard work by not delivering it on time. Do whatever it takes to get what you’ve promised to the journalist on time.

Follow up:

You’ve delivered the copy on time, the  feature has appeared, you’ve got a fantastic piece of coverage for your client, and hopefully the publication has replicated it online to.

Next up – say thank you!

A quick, one line email to the journalist to say thanks will go a long way. Not only have you shown the ability to really deliver targeted content suitable to their readers, but manners too!

Hopefully, by following these steps you’ll not only get some great results for your clients, but also build strong relationships with journalists and demonstrate that you are a trusted and reliable source.

What do you think – have you tried this approach? How has it worked for you?

Does the press release need rebranding?

Apparently the press release is dead, or dying, or something like that anyway.

If that’s the case then I’ve just spent the morning trying to resurrect the dead. And the coverage the extinct press release got me for clients last week must surely have been imaginary.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (a trusted resource I hope you’ll agree) a press release is ‘an official statement issued to newspapers giving information on a particular matter.’

Quite ambiguous, but ultimately it means news.

So how can the press release be dead? It’s like saying that news is dead.

Back to the dictionary: news is ‘newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events.’

And unfortunately, for those press release haters out there, most ‘news’ is in some way related to a person, a business, a product, an organisation or a brand – which is going to give someone, somewhere some publicity.

So, a press release is simply a way to get that news to the journalist and the reader quicker.

Yes, there are an awful lot of PROs out there who are still spamming newsdesks with terrible press releases which barely function as cohesive sentences, let alone news.

But the ones that are doing it right – creating targeted content for particular titles, with relevant case studies, statistics and local hooks, are providing newspaper journalists – whose workforces have been cut down to the bare minimal – with decent content.

Perhaps the issue isn’t with the function, but with the name.

‘Press release’ – it has so many bad connotations – poorly written copy, thousands of people cc’d into the same email, that annoying ‘have you received my press release’ phone call.

So, maybe it’s about time the press release had a brand overhaul.

Let’s give it a new name which sums up what it does when it’s done right.

Perhaps:

–          ‘Great filler for overstretched journalists?’

–          ‘Starting point for an even bigger story?’

–          ‘Strong local news story?’

–          ‘Real news about real people?’

–          ‘A well written article which will add value to your readers?’

Much of the ‘press release is dying’ talk is put down to the fact that the traditional media channels are declining and everything is becoming about social media and online news sites.

But this isn’t affecting the tangible product – those 400 words or whatever still need to be written – they’re just distributed in a different way, with key wording no longer an afterthought.

And I for one can’t foresee a time in the near future when distribution via social media and SEO platforms will be entirely exclusive of being combined with traditional media.

Advertising Age has also been involved in the debate asking in its weekly poll ‘Is the press release dead?’

I’m pleased to note that the result is a resounding ‘No’.

What do you think?

The end of PR as we know it?

I was out having dinner with some friends last night, when one of the girls started talking about her job doing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC). I understand the theory and importance behind both of these, but as for putting it into practice, that’s something I wouldn’t be able to do.

But that’s fine right? As a PRO my role is to manage client’s reputations and promote their brand, not worry about Google rankings.

But is it that simple anymore?

Everyone is talking about the fact that journalism and PR are dead. Now, it’s all about blogging, tweeting, rankings and numerous other ‘ings’ I have probably never even heard of.

Everywhere you look it’s digital and social media, and PROs and agencies are having to embrace these platforms in order to maintain clients.

But with all of these added media channels, the different areas of communication, and the role they play, are becoming increasingly blurred.

For example, there is already much conversation in the blogosphere about who social media should belong to – digital agencies or public relations.

So how long until PROs are expected to be able to deal not just with traditional PR (which, against popular belief is more than just spamming journalists with press releases) and social media, but also with SEO, PPC and web design, social media releases and optimising blog posts, online photos, presentations and You Tube videos.

As I’m writing this I know that it’s something that we should all be doing already – or at least have knowledge of. But sometimes it can feel like an impossible task to keep up – especially for a technophobe like me.

What do you think? Are you focusing on traditional PR and social media, or are you sat there reading ‘Idiots Guide to Web-Related ‘Ings’, awating the day when you’ll need to put them into action?

How do you measure your PR?

You’ve got X amount of newspaper articles, a few double-page features and a ton of online coverage – but what does it actually mean?

In this increasingly austere financial climate there is huge pressure to prove the value of marketing, but when it comes to PR, how do we measure the return on investment? 

In June this year the second European Summit on Measurement was held in Barcelona – which attempted to define just that.

Presented by AMEC (International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) in conjunction with the Institute for Public Relations, the conference brought together five global professional measurement and evaluation bodies, as well as nearly 200 delegates from the world’s top PR agencies and measurement firms. 

The outcome was seven measurement principles – the first ever global standard for measurement – which was published earlier this month: 

  1. Goal setting and measurement is key for any PR programme 
  2. Media measurement requires quantity and quality
  3. Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) don’t mean anything
  4. Social Media can and should be measured 
  5. Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results 
  6. Business results can and should be measured where possible 
  7. Transparency and the ability to replicate are paramount to sound measurement 

Now, is it me, or do these principles not actually mean much (just like the crudely calculated AVEs that PR has relied on for the last two decades)?

The principles have been criticised for being too ‘pedestrian’, and I have to say I agree. Take point four for example – it’s saying we should measure social media – but not actually giving any practical advice on how to do it. 

The more in-depth report does justify the points further saying things such as “media content analysis should be supplemented by web and search analytics, sales and CRM data, survey data and other methods.”

But to me, it’s still a bit hazy, with no definite actions we can put into practice. 

In principle (sorry!) the principles are a good idea, and will go some way to ensuring that measurement is no longer an afterthought – as it currently is for many in the industry. 

But do we really need a global preference when it comes to measurement?

Perhaps the approach should be to educate and encourage PR practitioners to be up front and frank with their clients at the start, and to discuss every form of measurement available to them.  

After all, each client is different and each campaign is different. So surely the way results are measured should be different too?

Whether the client prefers to quantify results by analysing key messages within articles, count the number of re-tweets on Twitter, measure the amount of direct sales or even old school AVEs, as long as we fully brief them on the pros and cons of each method it should be about the client and their needs – not about the industry attempting to justify itself through hazy bullet points.