I can trace my distaste for meetings back to my sorority days in college. There was always the girl who WOULD NOT SHUT UP. In my career, I have avoided jobs that required lots of time in conference rooms (why would anyone willingly go from being a newspaper reporter to a line editor??). A story in today’s WSJ breaks down all the personalities that make meetings so distasteful. For me, the ramblers are the most painful!
Sure, I’m a bit obsessed with grammar and admit I loved diagramming sentences in middle school. I keep an AP Stylebook on my desk. I get a thrill from printing out copy, going through it with a pencil and crossing out redundancies.
But all this nerdy copy-editing stuff is secondary to the first rule. After all, if the basic story is not compelling to the intended audience, who cares if your subject and verb agree? O.K., I care, but you get what I’m saying.
The “be interesting” rule is particularly important for my PR peeps to remember these days, as the popularity of content marketing increases.
Also sometimes called corporate journalism or branded media, content marketing is when companies create their own content to build their brands and drive web traffic. Content marketing can include blogs, white papers, web copy, byliners (placed in traditional media) and even social media communication such as Facebook posts and Pinterest boards.
Companies are jumping on the content bandwagon because traditional advertising is become less effective, the black-and-white lines of “real journalism” have faded and people care less about the source of information, as long as it is relevant to their lives.
However, too many companies fail to create content that is useful or interesting. A blog that reads like a bunch of press releases touting the company’s minor successes and community involvement is boring.
Too many PR people begin the content marketing process by thinking about what messages they want to get across. Instead, they need to think more like journalists and strive to write something that is newsy, surprising, helpful and/or thought provoking.
Because what’s the point of good writing if nobody reads it?
A big get that could make Pinterest more valuable: Tim Kendall has joined the Pinterest team, according to an exclusive interview with CEO Ben Silbermann published by Fortune this morning. As the former Director of Monetization for Facebook, Kendall was responsible for creating the vast…
I remember when media organizations in Atlanta were pretty snarky about each other’s troubles. When I was a reporter at the Atlanta Business Chronicle, management would try to generate staff spirit by talking about how our circulation numbers were up and the AJC’s were (slowly) declining. What a difference a decade makes. Now, everyone’s numbers are (rapidly) declining, staffs are shrinking and quality is inevitably suffering. I am guessing reporters all over town were sad yesterday when hearing CL’s news. I know I was. And I’m just a PR person.
“The key thing about good content is that it requires that you think about it first and foremost from the point of view of the consumer and what they want to hear, rather than from the point of view of the brand and what it wants to say. That is a major shift in perspective for many marketers and one that some aren’t capable of making. It often requires talking about your category or the subject you’re expert in rather than the characteristics of your company or brand.”—Jonah Bloom, executive director of content strategy, KBS+ Content Labs, from today’s Co.Create virtual panel. (via fastcompany)
Check out a Valentine-themed social media program we created for open-air shopping center Paper Mill Village. It’s all about showing love for the local community and connecting the shopping center’s brand with the passion residents feel for East Cobb.
Expect to see loads of Pinterest pins popping up across the Internet, as more brands try to leverage the white-hot social network. Pinterest – which allows people to “pin” pictures, recipes and quotations they like to virtual bulletin boards — has been around for several years but has only recently gotten big.
Pinterest got about 11 million visits per week in December, almost 40 times what it posted six months earlier, according to Experian Hitwise.
I recently signed up for Pinterest, started following all my Facebook friends as well as some heavy users Pinterest suggested. I almost immediately began thinking whether Pinterest makes sense for brands. I can’t help it, I own a PR firm, so it’s not gonna take long for my brain to go to: How can this beautiful platform add value for my clients?
So, first, from a user standpoint, what’s the attraction when many people are experiencing social media fatigue (and blowing off Google Plus because they already are over-committed)?My friends tell me Pinterest is different, quieter, doesn’t require too much of a socializing commitment (i.e. the introvert’s social media platform) and offers a nice break during the day. It’s particularly addictive for visual people — fashionistas, designers, artists, crafters, cooks, etc.
People like to browse and quietly pin pretty things. My mother used to rip pages from magazines and put them in folders — one folder was for interior decorating inspiration, one was for recipes, one was “ideas for the kids.” Pinterest is the digital equivalent, with a sharing component.
Not a lot of companies/brands are playing on Pinterest yet. With the growth numbers, it’s only a matter of time. I predict the successful Pinterest brands will play in at least one of two ways. They will set up their own Pinterest boards — and the key here is to set up something different than what’s already on your website — or they’ll add Pinterest pins to their websites to remind people to pin stuff. Both strategies, if properly executed, will result in consumers advocating for the brand via Pinterest.
I checked out what some early-adopter brands are trying and considered what’s working and what’s not. I commend Nordstrom for being an early adopter, but its boards are not that compelling. “Dresses I Love,” which I started following because I love dresses, feels like Nordstrom.com. There is nothing new on Pinterest.
Bergdorf Goodman has great names for its boards including “Shoes (that make us swoon).” Many of the boards cut across traditional retail categories and, unlike Nordstrom, also include pictures that don’t highlight products. For instance, there’s one dedicated to the color red that has Bergdorf dresses and shoes and also a pretty red front door and a cool shot of London phone booths. Similarly, Whole Foods has boards dedicated to recipes and products and also one for awesome kitchens. Again, I appreciate it is not so blatantly pushing its products the whole time.
I like what High Point Market in North Carolina is trying. The team there recruited style setters to capture images of their favorite finds at the interiors market and post them on their own High Point boards.
The Seattle Seahawks is on Pinterest, hardly a brand you’d expect to find there. So far, it has just 49 followers. I like the “Great Seahawks pics” board but the one dedicated to jerseys and other Seahawks merchandise is cheesy.
I’d love to hear what you think is working, what’s terrible, what’s somewhere in between. Also, does anyone see a meaningful play for B2B?
Just read an interesting stat. EdgeRank Checker says the average comment on a Facebook post attracts more than four times as many click-throughs as the average “like.” A “like” gets an average of 3.103 click-throughs, while a comment generates 14.678 click-throughs.
I am into storytelling. Some people are bored by/annoyed by/sick of infographics, which have seemed to be everywhere in 2011. Not me. I think the good ones provide a compelling way to tell a story. I’ll always be a writer, but I want to spend 2012 focused more on telling stories with graphics, photos and video, as well as copy.
This infographic collection, curated by the editors at Fast Company, inspires.
I really LOVE this NYT interactive feature highlighting ordinary people who passed away in 2011. I could spend all day reading these simple stories and looking at the photographs. Everyone has a story.
Content is Queen: 10 Guiding Principles from Her Kingdom
Here are the Queen’s TOP 10 rules for creating great content on social media and beyond:
1. Content should be engaging and encourage a two-way conversation.
2. Content should be interesting.
3. Content should be true.
4. Less than a quarter of social media content should be about directly selling or marketing a client’s products and services. Most of the content should be about sharing relevant, useful information and engaging with key audiences in authentic conversations.
5. Content should be timely. Newsy content is much more likely to inspire engagement.
6. Content should be delivered in a variety of mediums, including text, photos, videos and graphics.
7. Content should be well written, visually appealing and reflect the quality of the brands we represent.
8. Content should be titled and tagged in such a way as to increase searchability.
9.Content should be as short as possible.
10. Content should include multiple points of entry (e.g. bullet points, lists, subheads).
My transition from journalism to PR was in many ways a natural one. I had the writing skills. I knew what a story was. I understood how a newsroom worked. Still, learning to pitch took some time. I don’t think I so much got better at it as I just got used to rejection. The truth is that most pitching, no matter how good you are, is going to end with either a “no” or radio silence. Sometimes the news value is so great that you can sell it no problem. But most of the time, there is an element of luck. How busy is the reporter? How motivated is the reporter? Is this a topic that particularly resonates with the reporter?
I read a story in Bloomberg Businessweek this summer that has stuck with me about how many Mormon missionaries go onto become successful entrepreneurs and executives. When I went back today and re-read the story, titled “God’s MBA: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders,” I remembered the story highlighted a host of hypotheses for the unusually high rate of professional success among former missionaries. However, the thing that has stuck these months is the idea that Mormon missionaries must persuade people to listen and must learn to persevere in the face of near-constant rejection. Kevin Rollins, the former CEO of Dell Computers and currently a senior adviser to TPG Capital, said the rejections spiked with occasional successes that he experienced during his mission in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada, prepared him for entrepreneurship. “When you get into the business world, most of what you try doesn’t work either,” he told the magazine. “And so the notion of having focus and determination, working hard, and leading others along with you, those principles are all things you would look for in a corporate executive, vs. someone who closes his tent after one little disappointment.”
While I don’t expect to take up a Mormon mission anytime soon, the story got at the root of the issue for me and also for the PR people I supervise. How do you remain extremely optimistic in the face of consistent rejection? How do you keep pitching big, prestigious publications instead of just settling for news sites that post press releases?
Because the truth is — and please forgive the metaphor mixing — the only way you will ever hit the homerun is if you keep swinging for the fences.
As a lifelong lover of bookstores (raise your hand if you remember Oxford Books in Atlanta) , this story makes me happy on one level. However, I have to question the wisdom of opening a bookstore right now. Or starting a magazine. Or launching a newspaper. You can only swim against the tide so long.
Check out the WNS Real Estate Experts Guide, which we FINALLY launched this week after months and months of work. The idea is to connect journalists — who often need another source to round out a story or an expert to explain a particularly complex topic — with the sources they need. We have a large group of commercial real estate clients, so our first Experts Guide is focused on this vertical. Journalists can search by any topic — from distressed assets to leasing to medical office development — and find the source they need. We are hoping the Experts Guide will add value for journalists and deepen our relationships in the media, while also providing thought leadership opportunities for our clients. I’d love your feedback — especially if it is positive:)
10 Writing Tips: Learned in Newsrooms & Relevant for PR
Most of what I know about good writing I learned in newsrooms.
Sure, I had talented teachers in high school and college, but it was in the small and large newspaper newsrooms where I worked as a reporter that I learned to be quick, accurate and spare. Now I work in public relations and use those hard-won skills every day. Good writing is powerful, and in PR, it can drive measurable results.
Here are my 10 writing that tips most journalists already know and all PR professionals should learn.
10. Be interesting. In a typical Journalism 101 exercise, the professor sends students to “cover” a speech. The key for students is to NOT return with a story that begins, “Alice Smith, CEO of Central Bank, spoke at the Rotary Club at noon on Thursday.” To earn an A, students must lead with something compelling that Smith said. PR people all too often forget the “be interesting” rule and write press releases that fail to hook busy reporters — or anyone else.
9. Quotes should not convey information but rather add punch.
8. Quotes should be compelling and relatively short. Press releases with wordy, formal, jargon-filled quotes from executives do not drive results. These quotes may make the executives feel smart, but other readers quickly lose interest.
7. Break up quotes the same way journalists do – at the end of the first sentence.
Good: “The banking industry will never be the same again,” said Central Bank CEO Alice Smith. “The mortgage crisis changed the industry forever. That is a good thing.”
Not as good: “The banking industry will never be the same again. The mortgage crisis changed the industry forever,” said Central Bank CEO Alice Smith. “That is a good thing.”
6. Subjects and pronouns must agree. This rule seems to be particularly confounding for my PR brethren when writing about a company, which is singular.
Wrong: Coca-Cola is adding more products to their lineup.
Right: Coca-Cola is adding more products to its lineup.
5. Self-edit for extra words. Go through your copy like a surgeon with a scalpel and look at every sentence for a way to cut fat. Search for redundancies. Be merciless.
4. Cut the word “that” almost everywhere you see it.
3. Don’t use adverbs. If it ends in “ly,” you probably don’t need it. Same for the word “very.”
Good: Sally sprinted.
Not as good: Sally ran quickly.
2. Use your AP Stylebook. The only way to learn AP Style is to practice. Young reporters at small papers often write two stories a day, so they are constantly looking up something in their AP Stylebooks. If your first job is in public relations, keep your Stylebook handy and use it. There is nothing more annoying to a reporter, who has memorized AP style, than a press release that doesn’t adhere to it.
1. Fact Check. Print out your story and highlight every single fact. Then double-check these facts. I learned this lesson the hard way in a tiny newspaper newsroom in Clayton County. After a few embarrassing errors, I realized my eye rolls right over errors, especially when I am tired and stressed. I need the discipline of a fact-checking system — and most other writers (journalists and PR people alike!) do too.
At Wilbert News Strategies, we pride ourselves on understanding the nuances of the changing media landscape. This story is fascinating and explains a trend that, like most trends in media today, is being driven by a combination of increasingly sophisticated technology and increasingly difficult economics.
For years my best friend and I made fun of business speak. Top-line. Deep-dive. Deliverables. Why can’t people just speak English?
Last night, over chardonnay and cucumber rolls at MF Sushi, we admitted we had become the worst offenders. (Well maybe not the worst, but offenders nonetheless.)
“I reach out at least once a day now,” she confessed.
“I am constantly leveraging things and closing loops and executing against strategies,” I admitted.
Once we started sharing, we couldn’t stop.
“I manage expectations.”
“I circle back.”
“I put things in buckets.”
What had become of us???
We pondered our new identities through two generously poured glasses each, as well as plates of tony rolls, tuna rolls and salmon rolls. By the time we paid our bill, we had accepted we were at rock bottom.
There was only one thing left to do: Discuss next steps.
How a Longago Kayak Lesson Helps Me Run My Business
Pizza parties are not going to motivate anyone today to work hard.
I recently read a blog that argued today’s work force is not motivated by the same things that worked for employees a generation ago. Even bonuses and raises are not what they used to be. It quoted a Harvard Business Review study that found the top factor that kept employees happy and engaged was “making progress.” The study said employees who felt they were given the resources and time to excel in their positions were more fulfilled and stimulated at work. In other words, they were happy.
So if that is true — and my gut tells me it is — how do you help your team make progress? As I pondered this question recently, my mind drifted back to a freelance assignment I did for Fortune Small Business during my journalism days. I interviewed the founder of the Nantahala Outdoor Center about teaching people to kayak. Students with good experiences (i.e. happy customers) are those who stay in The Zone, challenged but not scared, as they learn to kayak. When teachers successfully push novices into that zone, the learning experienced is exciting, he said.
His whole theory made sense to me that day and it makes sense to me now. (As an aside, I did NOT enjoy learning to kayak. I was newly pregnant, terribly nauseous and motivated only for a paycheck and a byline in a magazine I loved — but that is getting off track.)
Now that I own a business with a small but growing team, I know it is in my best interest to help them grow. It improves the quality of the work we produce and it also — hopefully — keeps them happy. For smart people, growing is fun. I recently held a writing bootcamp. When our employees tell me they are overwhelmed, I try to take things off their plates. I look for challenges and opportunities. I seek The Zone, on their behalf.
I hope it works because I know our ability to hire, motivate and retain awesome people is what ultimately will mean the difference between a little bit of success and a lot of success.
Below are my favorite facts about social media behavior from The Pew Internet & American Life Project’s “Social Networking Sites and Our Lives” study. These stats drive home what we all intuitively know: People of all stripes (and ages) are spending dramatically more time on social media platforms these days. And MySpace is yesterday’s news.
1) Almost one in five (19 percent) of online 25-34 year olds use Twitter, up from 9 percent in Nov. 2010.
2) 52 percent of Facebook users are on it daily.
3) 33 percent of Twitter users are on it daily.
4) 76 percent of MySpace users joined the site two or more years ago. For Facebook, 33 percent; LinkedIn, 36 percent; Twitter, 11 percent.
5) For the first time, laptop computers are as popular as desktops: 57 percent of U.S. adults own a desktop, while 56 percent own a laptop.
6) On an average day, 26 percent of Facebook users “like” another user’s content.
7) As of May 2011, 13 percent of online adults use Twitter, up from 8 percent in November 2010.
8) 79 percent of adults use the Internet, and 59 percent of Internet users use social network sites.
9) More than half of all adult social networking site users are now older than age 35.
10) The average age of adult social networking site users shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010.