Category ArchiveTechnology PR Insights



Public Relations Tools &Technology PR Insights 14 Jan 2008 01:28 pm

Add Google Trends to your PR and marketing tool box

I’ve become mildly addicted to Google Trends lately. If you’re not yet familiar, the free tool presents a list of the top Google search terms at this moment and allows you to enter your own terms to measure and compare search popularity around the world and over periods of time. Access Google Trends from your regular Google page (it’s under the “Google Labs“ option, or directly via the link above.

For example, I learned that Dr. Phil’s popularity jumped up in early January. If you’re following the Britney Spears saga (and you probably can’t help it), then you know why this is. Thanks to Google Trends, we also finally have concrete proof that chocolate is more popular than vanilla.

From a PR, marketing, and journalistic perspective, Google Trends can be helpful in a number of ways. It provides a quick pulse read about what people care about around the world (or by region) at any given time and is a great way to identify ways your company, clients or local news sources can fit into the bigger picture of cultural trends.

How could Google Trends be useful for businesses? Well, when I checked on Friday, “operation boot camp” was the #3 search term and “on fire” by Trends standards. This may or may not have been prompted by a story on CNN’s Web site about an Atlanta man who lost 128 pounds through a program called Operation Boot Camp. But people started searching for the topic of fitness boot camps in general.

If you own a gym (or better yet, run a fitness boot camp), this would be a great opportunity to contact your local newspaper or TV station and let them know you can see fitness boot camps are a hot topic on CNN right now, and if they are working on a local story on the topic, you are available as a source to talk about the advantages of boot camp programs for weight loss, and what makes a boot camp different than just hitting the gym.

Google Trends change in real time, so what’s hot today might not be tomorrow. But it’s a great and fun way to stay current.

Posted by Rebecca

Public Relations Tools &Technology PR Insights 28 Nov 2007 04:00 pm

How to destroy a perfectly good press release, and other gems

I came across some great blog posts the other day – some more recent than others.

The first two links are just great how-to lists when preparing for a panel discussion or product demo presentation. Both are important ways to enhance visibility for our companies and selves, but they also put us in grave danger of being really boring. Guy Kawasaki puts our concerns at ease with his two blog posts:

How to Kick Butt on a Panel, and
How to be a Demo God

I have to give a shout out to PR Insights for referring me to these posts, as well as this one, which is hilarious and sad depending on how you look at it: Hacking Cough provides great journalist perspective on how good news releases can be, and how boring they can become if they are ruined with PR/corporate speak.

On a separate note, The Byline has moved up on Brendan Cooper‘s monthly list of PR Blogs, which is cool. It’s also good place to check for new/unfamiliar blogs similar to this one, which I encourage you to do.

Posted by Rebecca

Public Relations Tools &Technology PR Insights 21 Nov 2007 12:49 pm

News release 101: the DIY guide to newsworthiness

It seems simple, right? We’re doing something cool, we want others to be aware of it, let’s send out a news release. While it’s true that frequent media outreach helps to build brand awareness and perceptions, it’s also true that needless news releases can annoy reporters and lessen your chance of productive media relationships.

Here are five questions to ask yourself before you hit the send button (or ask someone else to do it on your behalf):

1. Who, what, when, where and why? (well, that’s actually five different questions, but anyway…) If your release answers all of the above, you’re good to go. If not, reconsider. When one or more of these key facts are absent, it’s usually an indication your “news” is incomplete and wont be useful to journalists or others. Extra tip for success: try to answer all five briefly within your lead paragraph.

2. What’s new? As Larry always says, “three quarters of the word ‘news’ is the word ‘new.’”If you can’t explain the “new” part (product, growth milestone, client win, management team member, certification, award, etc.) clearly, easily and within the first sentence, don’t send.

3. What’s my goal? The old adage, “begin with the end in mind” helps with news releases, too. “XYZ Company is doing something cool over here” is not a very directive headline (or subhead), so it’s important to decide which specific part of the cool thing you want to emphasize. Do you want people to attend an event? Learn about a new product? Be impressed by your dramatic growth (and what it does for your industry and economy)? Note, the goal of your news release is not “to get media coverage.”

4. Why does my news matter? If your news release does not tell readers why your news is important, don’t send it. For example, a new client win means very little on its own, but when this new client win exemplifies your growth, industry expertise/specialization, etc. it’s more valuable.

5. Where does my news matter? Different aspects of your business have different levels of impact. Generally speaking, your news is regional, national, industry-specific or some combination of these. A new product launch release is best suited for your industry because it reaches your target consumers. On the other hand, noteworthy revenue or employee growth might be a regional success story about XYZ Company’s impact on the economy. For tips to leverage your national media outreach, check out my previous blog post, “National coverage for local organizations.”

Once you’ve addressed these five questions, read our “Meet the press” blog post for technical tips to maximize media relationships by meeting reporters’ needs.

Posted by Nicole

Marketing &Technology PR Insights 18 Oct 2007 03:17 pm

Click and Stick: Successful Internet marketing strategies

Eiler Communications’ CEO, Larry Eiler, published an article on Internet marketing strategies in the September issue of Focus on Small Business, the Small Business Assocation of Michigan’s magazine. Below are our firm’s insights about how businesses owners can make e-marketing work for them. To order a copy of the magazine, contact the Michigan SBA.

The definition of marketing has recently expanded to include measurable, precisely-targeted Internet strategies that initiate dialogue with consumers. Since people use the Internet to make purchasing decisions, establishing a Web presence is crucial. Here are five ways your business can enlarge its e-footprint:

Search engine optimization
61 percent of people consider search engines their favorite tool for product research, according to a Yahoo! study, and Data Springs says 87 percent of them do not pass page one of their search returns. The demand for page-one visibility caused an explosion in search engine optimization (SEO), the business of increasing Web site traffic through natural search results.

“Achieving a high search ranking takes time and commitment,” said Linda Girard, co-founder of Ann Arbor Internet marketing firm Pure Visibility. “Successful sites are well-written, informative and easy to navigate. You are writing for search engine algorithms that comb the “key words” of your site for relevance by matching the search terms.”

Search engines don’t always recognize photos, graphics or music files; they care about relevant text. Are the terms “Michigan dentists” in your URL, page titles and site map text? If not, your chances of showing up in related search results are smaller.

Web site links are another important ingredient in SEO. Get listed in the top online directories in your industry and consider linking to companies in related industries on your Web site; they will return the favor. Every few months, evaluate the effectiveness of your key words, value of online referrals and which Web pages get the most visitors.

New media
Blogs, podcasts and content-sharing sites matter because people use them, sometimes more than traditional media. Hitwise finds more people visit the video-sharing juggernaut YouTube than the sites of all major TV networks combined. Journalists, too, read blogs to stay up on trends and story ideas.

Initiate conversation with customers by starting a blog on your Web site with a service like WordPress or TypePad. It will increase Web site traffic and bump up search engine returns. Blog about relevant articles, trends and products, and let readers post comments. Link to other relevant blogs and they will link back to you; join their online conversations and they will join yours. Make sure to officially claim your blog Technorati, a blog directory.

Create company podcasts, digital audio or video files, on your computer and uploaded to your Web site for viewing/listening. Pick topics you can educate others about. Virtual tours are popular with universities and builders; “how-to” demonstrations or executive interviews work for almost any business.

Post commercials on YouTube to establish an initial presence, but use the site to dialogue with others through interesting, interactive content. Blendtec, a company that sells blenders, did this with its viral video series “Will it Blend?” The series invited viewers to nominate new, ridiculous things to blend (like marbles). The initial campaign, which cost about $100, prompted high-profile media attention and increased sales.

Social networks
One in four people Americans use MySpace, a social networking site that accounts for a significant percentage of online retail referrals. Use popular social networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn, to connect with people in your local market. If you own a restaurant or boutique, invite people in your area to join your network for updates on sales and new products.

Online advertising
Paid online advertisements, or pay-per-click (PPC) listings, are purchased through major search engines and allow you to reach customers searching online for your services. PPC ads show up when a customer searches for the terms you’ve selected for your campaign. You pay when customers click on your site; ad impressions are unlimited. PPC programs allow you the freedom to set your own budget and track campaign success.

“Regardless of company size or budget, PPC is an effective marketing tool,” said Google AdWords Strategist Matthew Neagle. “Because ads are displayed alongside search results, a key benefit of Google AdWords and PPC marketing is the ability to target customers who are seeking your products or services when their need is top of mind.”

E-marketing collateral
Newsletters and marketing collateral have digital forms now, which are often more cost-effective and make it easier to measure effectiveness. Graphics and flash animation make e-collateral visually stimulating, and all traffic ultimately leads customers back to your Web site. Distributing via e-mail allows you to track who opens your mail and takes action.

The best way to maintain an e-marketing campaign? “Stay informed,” said Girard. “Research industry trends. Knowing about opportunities is the first step toward making them work for your business.”

Social Media &Technology PR Insights 13 Sep 2007 04:04 pm

My re-entry to the PR world

After more than 12 years in corporate communications, public relations, community relations and marketing, I took two years off to run my own business. In August, I decided to return to PR and happily ended up here at Eiler. Though I’ve only been away from the industry for two years, my re-entry has involved quite a bit of learning. Why? The evolution of new media.

In a 2006 Corante article, “Rebuilding Media,” media expert Vin Crosbie defines the two hallmark characteristics of new media. These are:

  • Uniquely individualized information can simultaneously be delivered or displayed to a potentially infinite number of people.
  • Each of the people involved—whether publisher, broadcasters, or consumer—shares equal and reciprocal control over that content.

Fortunately, I’m starting to figure out how to use the intuitive technologies. In fact, usability has not been an issue; time has. Exploring Linked-In felt like prepping for a high school reunion as I began to grow my network and saw who was on everyone else’s network and what they were doing. It’s so easy to get sucked in for hours at a time, especially if you start reaching out to people via email and phone.

Next, I’m embarrassed to admit I went on YouTube for the first time last week, and the story that got me to finally logon was about some beauty pageant contestant who answered a geography question with a string of words that made absolutely no sense. The kicker was she won third place. I just had to see the person who had answered this question.

Beyond initial exploration, however, I’m also starting to learn the PR applications of these technologies. I may have wasted some time on Linked-In and YouTube, but I’ve also learned how I can use these new media tools on behalf of my clients. I know having a large network is important in order to help my clients when they run into problems they can’t solve that aren’t PR related. I also know YouTube can be a great place for unique product launches or online press tours of colorful spokespeople. These are just two ways among many to use these two forms of new media.

The challenge now will be to try to learn at a pace that is slightly faster than the pace at which new media technology evolves.

Posted by Linda

Marketing &Media &Public Relations Tools &Technology PR Insights 05 Sep 2007 01:06 pm

The Newsroom 2.0

Does your PR/marketing person drone on about the upkeep of your company’s Web site newsroom opportunity? That’s likely because they know the majority of journalists research their articles and search for press releases nowadays. According to DMNews, “Corporate Web sites are a key source of information when reporting breaking news when no other primary source is available.” On a news deadline, the company with the most accessible information gets the coverage.

Web site newsrooms are commonplace by now, but you can separate yours from the masses by making it better. Here are five ways to do it:

1. Make sure the newsroom link is obvious from the homepage. If the link to your newsroom is subtle, or worse yet, inaccessible from your homepage, change it. If you were a reporter, how much trouble would you go to for your press release?

The likelihood of media visiting your site is high, especially if preparing for an interview with one of your executives. Approach your newsroom with that in mind. Does your content meet the needs of someone doing quick research about your company? Avoid the temptation to “track” media by requiring a username and password set-up to access your newsroom. It’s annoying, and if information is confidential or sensitive it doesn’t belong in the newsroom.

2. A newsroom is more than your online press release archive. Newsletters, executive speech transcripts, event photos and abstracts from recent media coverage are all appropriate additions. Think creatively about how to keep content fresh.

Post an online media kit to your newsroom for easy downloading. Include the same materials you would in a media folder: executive bios and photos, your latest company news release, a backgrounder or fact sheet about your business and a high-res logo.

3. Remember to date all posted press releases and newsroom items—readers need context. This will also force you to keep content up-to-date. Neglecting to post news as it is released wastes everyone’s time and defeats the purpose of the newsroom. Content should also be easy to navigate. Consider making your content searchable by multiple fields, like date, topic or headline, and available in multiple formats like Word and PDF.

4. Set up an RSS feed so media (and others) can subscribe to your site’s updates. An RSS (Really Simple Syndication), like Feedburner, is free and downloadable as an icon to your Web site. RSS feeds “read” the sites their users subscribe to and send an update when new content is posted. In other words, journalists can subscribe to your RSS and receive a prompt on their homepage when you post a new press release.

Many journalists actually prefer RSS subscriptions to receiving press releases via e-mail, because it allows them to “opt-in” to your news and provides real-time updates. In 2005, Robert Scoble (Microsoft tech evangelist) notoriously blogged that any marketing person who did not add an RSS feed to their Web site should be fired. Harsh. But it’s a valuable tool we should all be using.

5. Identify one media contact in your newsroom and provide his/her contact information on the Web page, not just within press releases. Generic “info@” e-mail addresses or request-for-information survey pages are disconcerting for journalists who may be on deadline and want to contact the right person in a timely fashion.

The moral of the story is to evaluate your newsroom from a journalist’s perspective: someone unfamiliar with your company’s history, leadership and chain of command. Does your site paint a clear picture of your corporate identity? If not, it may be a good idea to do some housekeeping; statistically it is the most popular place people go to learn about your company.

Posted by Rebecca

Marketing &Media &Public Relations Tools &Technology PR Insights 10 Aug 2007 02:12 pm

And the strategic PR tactic of the year is: the award

Awards are great PR tactics because they build credibility and visibility. Pursuing award opportunities can enhance industry leadership and build your company’s market recognition. Furthermore, awards serve a third-party endorsement of the quality products or services you offer (i.e. America’s Most Respected Companies, Best Places to Live America’s Favorite Cookie, etc.). That credibility accomplishes more than any advertising campaign.

Given the power of awards, it’s also important to understand where to look for them and how to pursue them for your organization. The diverse array of awards available might be daunting at first, but that’s a good thing. Different awards allow you to highlight different aspects of your business. Here’s a quick overview of some of the major award types and how they help you:

Industry awards recognize your company’s excellence within its primary area of expertise. You can apply for these awards for reasons including recent innovation, new product or company growth. Depending on the size of your business, you might be the best darn software development firm in the country, you might fall into the top 50 or 100, or you might fit a more specialized industry award, like “best developer of public transit tracking software” or “best manufacturer of polyester shoelaces” rather than best footwear manufacturer overall. Look to your trade publications and national industry organizations to find these opportunities.

Local media awards allow your company to showcase a strong suit other than its industry expertise. You might be the industry’s best developer of public transit tracking software, but you might also be one of your region’s “coolest places to work,” “best and brightest,” “fastest growing private companies,” etc. Check local business publications for announcements of these awards.

Professional organization membership awards acknowledge your contribution to the community of colleagues in related professions. Detroit’s Automation Alley, for example, has an annual awards gala to recognize the best member individuals and companies. Your member newsletters or the organizations’ websites are a great place to find out more about the awards they offer.

Awards for individuals within your company highlight employee excellence. Often, top-level executives are submitted for these awards based on significant victories, contributions or characteristics. Crain’s 40 under 40, for example, showcases one member of your team, but brings a measure of clout to the business as a whole. Not only that, these awards are often a morale booster; they show you recognize your employees’ contributions. Available on local, national and industry-wide levels, these opportunities can be found through professional organizations and it many trade and business news publications.

Awards for specific activities, generally given by professional organizations, recognize very specific areas of excellence. PRSA’s Silver Anvil Award for Crisis Communications, for example, awards member agencies based on documented strategic development and execution of one specific project. Consider pursuing awards for your web site, a successful ad campaign, company newsletter, new product design, etc.

Awards from clients, like “supplier of the year” and “certified partner,” allow you to demonstrate trends of excellent service—a plus when seeking new business—and help build your company’s recognition through association with other, often high-profile, clients. Explore these opportunities among clients with whom you have a positive, long-term relationship.

If none of these works for you, you can create your own award. This technique brings recognition to companies or individuals you think are doing something good, and it brings you recognition through association. Not only that, you’re also showing your company appreciates the contributions of others; something leaders at all levels do regularly. Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award is a great example of successful award creation. NuStep, Inc., an Ann Arbor-based maker of recumbent cross-training machines, gives its Pinnacle Award to exemplary health and wellness centers each year.

With all these options, the question becomes “where do I begin?” As with all successful PR tactics, some strategic planning with bring you closer to success. Establishing an award pursuit strategy involves three key actions:

  1. Set goals! The pursuit of awards should support a defined purpose and work hand-in-hand with your business goals. Decide what you’d like your business to be known for and among whom and only pursue awards that will allow you to meet those goals. If you’re a baker, you might decide you want your bakery to be known locally for its great food and ambiance, and within the industry for its inventive recipes. You would apply for “top restaurant” or “best of” awards in local publications and “croissant recipe of the year” in trade publications. You wouldn’t apply for an unrelated award, like “best campfire sing-along leader,” even if you’re the undisputed champion, because it doesn’t further your business goals. Choosing award opportunities that suit your business makes you more likely to win.
  2. Create an award database! Once you’ve defined your goals and audiences, it’s time to do some research. Find out about relevant award opportunities—application processes, deadlines, contact information, etc.—and keep all of that information in one central document. Try building an annual database so you’re aware of future opportunities and you can easily search within your master document for upcoming deadlines and other information. This saves you time in the long run; any additional research will supplement your master document, but you wont have to re-create it until next year. Your opportunity database should be comprehensive enough to allow for more than one award application in a defined period.
  3. Apply consistently! You might decide you want to pursue one award per quarter, per year, etc. Whichever time frame you choose, make sure you are consistently applying for, and winning, relevant awards. If you decide to adopt award pursuit as a PR strategy, you should commit to it; make awards as much a priority as any of your other tactics and don’t wait for the opportunity to come to you. This will ensure your business is consistently recognized as excellent, not just a flash in the pan.

Posted by Nicole

Marketing &Media &Public Relations Tools &Social Media &Technology PR Insights &Writing 29 May 2007 02:32 pm

Wild west web 2.0: the value of professional writing in a lawless frontier of widely published amateurs

What happens to language when people are both encouraged to write and encouraged not to write properly? How can we maintain some sense of law and order on the frontier of new media? What is the role of the professional writer – someone who knows how to clearly, concisely and accurately communicate—in a system that doesn’t seem to uphold any standards? The mass abbreviation and simplification of our language, coupled with the rise of user-generated content in even the most legitimate of media, has created a free-for-all that may cause us to wonder whether precision and clarity matter anymore. They do, but first, let’s look at our circumstances.

The “Evolution” of Language

Language is a necessarily dynamic component of culture. In 2006 alone, Miriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary added nearly 100 new words. Some of these, like “gastric bypass” and “spyware,” reflect technological innovations. Others, like “drama queen,” “sandwich generation” and “Google” (as a proper noun and a verb) illustrate cultural change. These lexical additions positively impact our ability to communicate.

At the same time, our cultural preoccupation with ease of use is causing a widespread over-simplification of language, grammar and syntax. A recent Cingular Wireless commercial, entertaining as it is, shows us what can happen when we apply the “œquick and easy” philosophy behind microwaves and Swiffer Wet Jets to our key communication mechanism. We may not have regressed to “idk” (I don’t know) or “np” (no problem) yet, but how many times do we begin inter-office e-mails with “fyi,” and how many of us really know where the comma or apostrophe goes?

The “Evolution” of Media

In the Web 2.0 world, user-generated content is king. Last month, MySpace was at the top of the 20 most popular website in the U.S. as ranked by Hitwise, an online competitive intelligence research firm. Facebook, YouTube and ebay also appeared on the list, competing only with Google searches and various e-mail clients.

Many national and local newspaper sites are taking note of this trend and offering a comment feature so readers can interact with their news. Just glance at the New York Times website, with its 20-some blogs, to find why many of us believe our opinions “fit to print.”

But good writing is not a historical artifact. Despite these linguistic and cultural shifts, many of us still care about precision of language. Some get it wrong, but wrong is not the new right. We know this intuitively because many of us are still offended at the sight of “your” instead of “you’re” or “its” instead of “it’s.” Monstertrak.com’s article “Avoid the Top 10 Resume Mistakes” puts typos and grammatical errors at the very top. Why? Because “employers will read between the lines and draw not-so-flattering conclusions about you…” We draw those conclusions because we know how important it is to make a good impression. Language is a large part of how we represent our businesses and ourselves. It’s our vehicle for communicating who we are and what we have to offer.

And how should we do that?

Read

There are a number of excellent resources that offer easy-to-understand tips and tricks of the trade. Three of my favorites are Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss, The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Even if you don’t read grammar- or language-specific books, reading regularly is a great way to familiarize yourself with proper grammar and sentence structure; making you a better writer in the long run.

Write and Rewrite

The old adage is true; the essence of writing really is rewriting. Focus on content when you first sit down to write. After you’ve included all the necessary information, take a break and return with an eye toward style and accuracy. Have a colleague or other trusted person look over your work, and don’t be discouraged if you receive constructive criticism.

Consult an Expert

Despite our best efforts, many of us recognize we’re not experts. We may be successful entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, etc., but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are effective communicators. Realize there are professional writers out there and make these people part of your brain trust. Let them help you reach potential customers with a well-crafted message that adequately communicates who you are and what you do.

Posted by Nicole

« Previous Page