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Weaponizing Earned Media for Maximum Impact
by Kasey Backherms

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Earned media – the product, trend and thought leadership placements we work very hard to deliver for our portfolio of clients – is an excellent validation of your product and company strategy. It’s also a valuable component to your content marketing strategy, one that can help deliver sales results, in addition to quality traffic and awareness.
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Is There Any Value in LinkedIn Endorsements?
by John Kreuzer

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Last September, LinkedIn rolled out Endorsements, a convenient way to endorse your connections’ skills with just one click. As we typically see when new features are released, the feedback hasn’t been the greatest:

“LinkedIn is trying to be more like Facebook, and this is their ‘like.’

“They’re watered-down recommendations.”

“They don’t serve any useful purpose.”

If you haven’t been kept up to date, here’s the 411 on LinkedIn Endorsements. Endorsements let your LinkedIn connections vote up your skills and areas of expertise. Your skills are then ranked and re-ranked based on how many people have endorsed them, with their profile pictures appearing next to each skill. Your connections can also add new skills to your profile that they’d like to endorse.

According to LinkedIn’s Help Center:

Skill endorsements are a great way to recognize your first-degree connections’ skills and expertise with one click. They also let your connections validate the strengths found on your own profile. Skill endorsements are a simple and effective way of building your professional brand and engaging your network.

When you’re a first-degree connection of somebody and go to their LinkedIn profile page, you are presented with a list of five skills from that person’s profile and asked if they have these certain skills. You then have the ability to endorse any or all of these skills in the box. Since Endorsements involve just a single mouse-click, I can quickly endorse 50 people in just 5 minutes, without even breaking a sweat. And guess what…the person I just endorsed will receive an email that I’ve endorsed them. Maybe now they might return the favor. Why not? It’s so easy!

I’ll admit that endorsing others is an easy way to recognize colleagues for the skills I’ve seen them demonstrate. It helps contribute to the strength of their profile, and increases the probability they’ll be discovered for opportunities related to their skills. It also helps keep strong connections with the people in my network. I’ve found that after I’ve endorsed a former colleague, it’s been much easier for me to reach out to them because I’ve recently been in touch.

With that being said, I still believe that LinkedIn endorsements don’t provide as much value as they could. I find Endorsements to be more of a “recommendation lite” than anything else. If you want to recommend somebody for their work and/or skills, you should take the time to write one. Sure, it’s not one-click, but your recommendation will be more powerful, meaningful and beneficial to your connection.

At first, I was an active participant in endorsing my connections for skills that I thought they had. I didn’t spend a lot of time actually putting thought into the endorsements I was making. If they said they were good at a certain skill, obviously they were good at it, right? Moving forward, I am not going to endorse any skill that I haven’t had the opportunity to actually see someone demonstrate firsthand. I should have been doing this all along, but like others, I just got lazy. I’m not sure everyone will use the same level of care that I do, but I hope that users will actually spend a little time before they just click their mouse to automatically endorse a connection.

If you’re one of those LinkedIn users who are looking to turn off Endorsements, Kristin Burnham at CIO has a great article which provides step-by-step instructions. Check it out!

Have you found the LinkedIn Endorsements to be helpful or do you think they are of little value? Any and all comments are welcome.

Pin It: How to Effectively Use Pinterest for PR
by Veronica Olah

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Social media is everywhere these days, whether we see a company’s social media advertising on billboards, magazines or websites, we can’t seem to miss the logos for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest on the bottom . It’s become the norm to be asked to subscribe to blogs, become fans, friends, follow, share, and connect in a limitless number of ways.

While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are obvious social networking sites for your company to connect with the media, customers, users, etc. — you should also consider Pinterest, which has become one of the hottest trends in social media.

So, what is Pinterest? Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that lets you organize and share all things you find on the web, whether it be business related or for personal use. People use pinboards to plan, discover, find and inspire. Users can simply create a board and start ‘pinning’, ‘repin’, and ‘like’ from your followers.

More and more businesses are beginning to use Pinterest as a marketing tool to connect with users and spread the word. Here are a few suggestions on how you can use Pinterest as a PR tool:

Think Visual and Engage with Customers

With Pinterest you must think visual – focus on pinning items that will help you create exposure for the stories you are trying to communicate. While you’re pinning items to your boards, engage with your customers to share interesting items and have them repin from your boards to increase exposure.

Pin What’s Happening In Your Industry

Try and find some interesting visual elements that can illustrate trends in your industry. A great example of his would be pinning infographics from your company and/or industry related graphics. If the company is attending any trade shows or conferences, be sure to document it by taking pictures/videos and pinning them during and after the event. For example, one of your boards can be called “SXSW” and you can pin images and videos about you and your company, as well as include others you interact with at the show.

Pinterest Is Not Just For Pictures

Surprisingly enough, you can pin videos as well as pictures. This is a great way to convey your company’s story, address industry related issues, share tips and tricks, interviews with the media, conferences the company is attending, etc. These videos (as well as pictures) can link back to your company’s website to drive traffic.

Those are just a few tips that I’ve found from my personal interactions with Pinterest. Is your company on Pinterest?



Why Twitter Is Your Best Shot with Reporters
by Kasey Backherms

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Screened phone calls and unanswered emails are a commonality for us PR pros representing less renowned companies. The good news is that there is much more effective way to reach reporters nowadays. Twitter might not be sexy, but it can be a loyal friend when it comes to making connections with reporters.

More often than not you see many writers, editors and even industry analysts as daily contributors to their personal twitter handles. Regularly you see them pushing their posted stories out via tweets and patting each other on the back for solid reporting. This is an avenue for you as a PR pro to strike while the iron is hot. Take the time to comment on their story, or recommend related content for them to check out. You don’t necessarily need to pitch them your client right off the bat, but engage with that person personally, and see what happens. A good start is to take the initiative to tweet their posted stories to your followers and facilitate spreading the words that they wrote. Don’t be surprised if you get a retweet, or an @mention saying thanks. Now they have a face and a personality to go along with the drag of going through countless pitches. When you pitch them again, mention the twitter interaction as the road to initiate a conversation. After getting some interaction going, send them an informal tweet inviting them to talk or to take a look at client news.

In my experience, there is surprising response and often a very different tone coming from the other end. Many times it has been the spark that was needed to stir up a conversation that ended up becoming a successful working relationship. This can be just another addition to the PR toolkit, that in conjuction with creative email pitches and selective telephone follow up, can be the difference between getting that coverage for your client or not.

Don’t Let Hackers ‘Onionize’ Your Messages: Know How to Control your Social Accounts
by Tim Polakowski

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In the event you have missed it, some very large brands have had their corporate messages re-interpreted by an always aware and always vigilant source – Hackers.

At first this appeared to be a headline from “The Onion” –  “Burger King Just got sold to McDonalds because the whopper flopped.”  This was followed quickly by “Just Empty Every Pocket sold to Cadillac” within a day. While we all know that many brands are using Twitter to make major announcements – and we even advise our clients to sometimes use this methodology – these two headlines tend to raise an eyebrow.

In reality, what we have here is hackers flexing their muscles and reminding us just how important passwords are, and all of the policies companies establish to govern the use of social media.  While we could look at this as an opportunity to say thank you for the free publicity and create some clever #lines and capitalize on their humor, my suggestion is that we closely examine our social media accounts and who has access to them, as we increasingly stake our corporate reputation on them.

The ever clever and never to do saying KISS or Keep it Simple, Stupid in the case of passwords on empowers those who seek to influence the our messages, gain free publicity at our expense and always watch for ways to inflict the KISS of cyber death on as many as possible.

With the annual RSA conference upon us, we as Public Relations, Media Relations, and Social Media representatives of brands large and small need to take action and ensure we understand, acknowledge and respect the responsibility we have to ensure that the access to our clients social media channels remains secure.  Otherwise, we risk facing the reality that hackers will out do the infamous “Onion” with headlines and messages on our behalf.

The Rubio Effect
by Danielle Giaccio

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On a night when Marco Rubio was poised deliver the GOP rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union address, something happened that the PR team at Poland Spring must have (or should have) jumped on.  If you missed it, Rubio leaned over, mid-speech, and sipped a mini bottle of Poland Spring water.

The media has been relentless in mocking Rubio for his gaffe and an influx of “memes” has been created since then. As a PR professional, we must learn to not only monitor but jump ahead of the curve and create compelling and memorable campaigns around both planned and unplanned events. In my opinion, Poland Spring lost a huge opportunity by not jumping on the bandwagon and creating something memorable from it.

No one is thinking about what he said, rather the news has been linked to his refreshing gulp of Poland Spring than to his actual speech. Poland Spring first and foremost should have exploded on social media as soon as it happened. Their Twitter feed was silent during and after it happened, which was a mistake. They should have started trending something along the lines of #RubioThirstQuencher or #DryMouthRubio something along those lines. They then could have made an announcement offering Marco Rubio a lifetime supply of their mini water bottles so he will never get parched, mid-speech, again.

Instead of hiding his head in shame, Reclaim America, Rubio’s political action committee, began selling a reusable “Rubio” water bottle after his awkward moment of thirst. Anyone who donates $25 or more gets one and the PAC website reads “Send the liberal detractors a message that not only does Marco Rubio inspire you… he hydrates you too.” This was great thinking on the part of the PR team. Rather than hiding from the moment, they are embracing it by not only capitalizing on the moment, but enticing people to donate to the Florida senator with a fun play on words to make up for the momentary thirst quench.

Poland Spring could learn a few things from Reclaim America. They were able to capitalize on something that was trending and made it work to their advantage. That is a large part of what PR people need to and should be doing when it concerns their clients. This is especially true in social media. Poland Spring’s PR team lost an opportunity to expand their already huge brand by poking fun at Rubio, whether it was via social media or a press release.  Whether or not Rubio plans on running for President in 2016 remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, he will live in infamy for his reach to that mini Poland Spring bottle.  And Poland Spring will be kicking themselves as this takes on a life of its own, without the help of their PR team.

So what should Poland Spring have done? For starters,  monitor relevant coverage in real time. They should have jumped on that as soon as Wolf Blitzer went “uh-oh” when he took a sip. They also need a heavy dose of social media training and should think more about how social media can amplify their message. If they were active on social media during and after this happened, they could have used it as an opportunity for clever brand exposure.  Social channels act in real time.  Its not worth tweeting about three days later. # yesterdaysnews

As PR people, we need to constantly think about how our placements or other media attention can start a new conversation in social media, and that conversation can (and does) take on a life of its own.  Think about how this one event could have impacted sales of the Poland Spring mini, if Poland Spring acted quickly.

Don’t Be Afraid of Social PR
by Erin Elton

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At the AlwaysOn OnMedia conference in NYC yesterday, I saw a fascinating panel on Social Commerce. An interesting statistic came out of the panel discussion from Lance Neuhauser, CEO of The Echo System: 95% of Facebook wall posts from companies go unanswered while call centers for the same companies are packed with customer service reps taking phone calls. Most large companies do not have any employees focusing their time on interacting through social networks to improve their image.

Most companies have in place response strategies for the media, but what about negative comments about your business through social networks?

Based on this presentation, here are a few tips for rapid response social media PR:

1) Have someone within your company (or at the PR firm that represents you) constantly monitor your company’s FB pages, Twitter handle, YouTube channel and every other social network for any comments.

2) Respond right away to either negative or positive comments by either re-tweeting, commenting in a thread or posting how your company corrected the wrong that you were called out on.

3) If possible, directly message the person that negatively commented about your company and apologize for any inconvenience and make it right through a discount, refund, etc.

4) DO NOT try to fight back and challenge the person unless you are ready for a possible social media comment war. In some cases, this kind of publicity could be a good PR stunt but make sure you have thought through all the possibilities.

Remember: Social media is the new social interaction medium for businesses. Stay ahead of the curve by paying attention to and interacting within your social networks.

Three Easy Ways Social Media Can Help You with Pitching
by Stefanie Cannon

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When clients request a regional media tour, surprisingly one of the first places I visit to find relevant reporters is LinkedIn. When I want to discover what a reporter’s latest interest might be, I take a peek at their Twitter feed. The value of social media platforms provide PR professionals with more insight and can be “minimally invasive” as compared to other methods of more direct contact which can sometimes be a less than welcome intrusion for reporters on deadline.

Here are three ways that PR pros can use social media to strengthen pitching efforts and perhaps more importantly create solid bonds:

  1. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION – With LinkedIn, PR professionals have the ability to easily and unintrusively view where a reporter is located when booking a local media tour.
  2. MUCK RACK – A quick method to discovering what reporters are discussing among their community is to head over to MuckRack.com where you can catch a filtered view of the latest tweets by reporters (designated by beat)
  3. FRIEND REQUEST – A few of my colleagues have creatively used Facebook to interact with reporters on both a professional and personal level helping to successfully cultivate a PR/reporter relationship. 

Unfortunately many PR pros have relied too heavily on the “mail merge” or “bulk sender” option when it comes to pitching efforts. We can see this time and again on reporter Twitter feeds when they call out a #PRFail.  Reporters respect PR pros that take the time to truly understand the publication and their beat. Social media has made it easier than ever to identify and track reporters that might be great contacts and approach them with a more personalized message. Gaining insights in real time and understanding what is happening for these reporters on a more personal level translates into a much higher likelihood they are open to pitches and story ideas.

Do you have any experiences with social media? Send me your thoughts.

Tweetalee Dee, Tweetalee Dumb
by Joanna Leis

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It looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers are repeat offenders.  James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley sure know how to put their feet in their mouths when it comes to tweeting: Harrison called his boss an idiot for the new Pittsburgh Steelers Rule, and Woodley was non-apologetic for hitting too hard. Yes, hitting is part of the game, but as Kevin Allen of Ragan’s PR Daily says: “With the NFL going through PR hell right now, with its plague of severe head injuries and the current lockout, tweets like this are the last thing it needs.” It seems as if these players forgot that they are not only the faces of the Steelers, but they are also the faces of the NFL as well. What they say and do impacts the organization.

In my previous post, I talked about the BronxZoosCobra tweeter and how he or she successfully turned a crisis into an opportunity. The comedic tone made the BronxZoosCobra’s tweets successful. But in certain instances, humor does not work and should not be used. The tone of the situation must match the tone of the tweets. A misguided use of “humor” can cause a crisis of its own.

For example, Gilbert Gottfried, a famous comedian most recently known as the voice behind the duck of Aflac is now recognized for making a very famous mistake. He tweeted jokes about Japan’s tsunami during the midst of the crisis, stating “Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them” as well as another tweet that is just too appalling to rewrite.  Making fun of people while they are in distress isn’t nice, and it’s bad business sense. His tweets were offensive to many and as a result, he was fired from Aflac.

Another example is Kenneth Cole; his tweets on the situation in Egypt damaged his company’s reputation which was known for its professional appeal.

These attempts of humor on Twitter have caused damage to these individuals’ reputations. They may have also caused damage to the companies’ brands, but that’s something only time will tell.

When you represent an organization, you need to monitor what you say and do at all times. With social media there is no separation between company and personal time. As PR Professionals, it is our responsibility to remind our clients that everything they say, write and do is under the scrutiny of the organizations’ constituents, especially if they are the face of the company, a spokesperson or a famous football player.

With the expansion and increased use of social media PR Professionals need to provide counsel on both the corporate and private aspects of spokespeople lives. PR Professionals can work with their clients/organizations to protect their reputations by:

  • Having integrated access to all public social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • Monitoring conversations within social networks
  • Consistently advising clients on what to and most importantly what NOT to say

PR Professionals need to have a say in everything that is publicly stated, for they are the guards of corporate reputations and can only remain to be so if they have full access to all communication channels.

Do the Math
by Hugh Burnham

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In a Forbes Blog Post on Friday, (and I don’t blame Forbes, I credit the publication for having such great blog content)  the London Bureau Chief, picks on Burson-Marsteller for taking on  “unsavory clients” in the wake of the revelation that they are working on attacking privacy issues for Google.

This post left me scratching my head.  With so many similar articles out did it occur to anyone why PR firms often get hired? It is often BECAUSE their clients are in unsavory positions or they have thorny issues to tackle!!!  PR firms have been doing this kind of work since the industry was created. Only occasionally, when it’s a big (or in this case) two big high profile companies, does it become a big deal.

Burson, while it is now forced to backtrack and tell the world that this is against its ethical policies to not disclose their client, is hardly the first PR firm to have its own PR issues.   PR firms do this all the time.  When I worked at one of the world’s largest PR firms, we were booted out of the American Lung Association after a week when it was discovered that we were simultaneously representing a large tobacco manufacturer.    And Wal-Mart’s former PR firm Edelman was taken to task for having PR people pose as “bloggers” while spreading a great message of how wonderful the company was.

Amongst the “shocking” details revealed in the Forbes post is that Burson has a “reputation” for representing this kind of client.  The list included the Saudi government after 9/11, Romanian dictator Nicholae Ceausescu and the Argentinian junta after the disappearance of 35,000 civilians, amongst other things.   But this is why PR firms get hired. So they can represent these companies or governments’ best interests. 

No one would point the finger at a law firm that represented these clients, would they?  And if you looked at other large PR firms, they surely are representing clients with similar issues.   Why the finger pointing?   What is it about the media that just makes it so simple to muck rake for no reason? While it might not be 100% savory to think that companies attack other companies with widespread PR campaigns, you had better believe it happens all the time.  They just aren’t Google and Facebook, most of the time.

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