5 Reasons Your Story Wasn’t Picked Up: A PR View

Every experienced PR person has had their share of media opportunities that looked promising but never resulted in coverage. In fact, most can recall a particular occasion where everything went right, whether it was a full interview or a quick comment, and nothing came of it. Although there’s no magic to guaranteeing a 100% coverage rate, there are ways to maximize your chances of seeing your company’s quote in a story. Below are five reasons why the story didn’t materialize.

The spokesperson wasn’t prepared

Even if your spokesperson is an expert in the field and on the subject at hand, they will need a thorough briefing. This should go beyond a topic and journalist bio. A PR rep should get as much information as possible, pressing for detail on the proposed discussion and the story’s slant. You will not get specific questions, but pulling together a predictive Q&A is useful. In addition, structure is just as important as content. Often your spokesperson will review the briefing document during the interview, so creating an easy-to-scan guide they can review and absorb in real time is critical.

The quote lacked color

For a quote, context and color are often the major factors for inclusion in a story. Make sure your spokesperson is providing new and intriguing insights instead of reiterating what the reporter has likely heard, especially since they might have multiple quotes to consider. A quick brainstorm for unique points and turns of phrase can prepare your spokesperson to offer something new to the journalist. In addition, make sure every insight is relevant to the story and topic at hand. Don’t be afraid to go for a contrarian angle or quote, but make sure the opinion is authentic, and that the spokesperson is comfortable with offering a point of view that’s outside the mainstream.

The interview was too late

Reporters are always on deadline and they often need to speak as soon as possible. It’s important to lock in any opportunities quickly. If your go-to spokesperson is busy and can’t talk right away, consider other executives or experts who might be qualified. There are also circumstances where a pre-prepared quote or comment may be helpful, especially in situations that are anticipated, like the release of government unemployment numbers, or an announcement by a competitor. Also, a quick follow-up with the reporter is helpful. A journalist will often request more information or confirmation of details, so quick responses are warranted and appreciated.

The spokesperson wasn’t the right expert

As helpful as a thorough briefing document might be, it’s also essential for any media spokesperson to have real and relevant expertise on the subject at hand. This is why it can be advantageous to have a matrix of spokespersons, whether in-house or outside experts, on hand for multiple opportunities. Trying to shoehorn a vague or irrelevant comment into a story that needs informed expertise is almost always a waste of time. But when the situation calls for an opinion as opposed to an insight, a colorful metaphor or analogy can win the day.

The comments were too promotional

The quickest way to shut down a journalist’s interest in an interview is to turn it into a sales pitch. Any company spokesperson or third-party expert should avoid jargon, especially comments that talk up a product or service that’s not the point of the story. A good PR rep will coach their executive on ways to demonstrate expertise without devolving into sales-speak. 

How Influencers Can Elevate Your PR Campaign

As digital content consumption continues to grow, PR pros are always looking for ways to target specific audiences through social media. We know the power that social media campaigns can wield – from amplifying earned media that PR generates to marketing products. And adding influencers to the mix can boost those PR efforts exponentially. 

Influencers who resonate with a specific segment help brands stay relevant by cutting through the digital noise. The blend of social media reach and trust in specific personalities can really amplify a campaign. Read on to find out how to craft the best collaboration.

Don’t count out influencers for B2B PR

The splashiest influencer marketing campaigns tend to be in beauty, fashion, and other lifestyle sectors, but don’t count it out for B2B PR. Many B2B categories, like software, have long selling cycles where customers spend significant time learning about products and services. Educational or service-oriented content that shares expertise is typically a big part of a B2B PR program, and that’s where expert influencers come in. A business leader or subject-matter expert (SME) who posts content in the form of bylined pieces, white papers, blog posts, or explainer videos can help differentiate a company and add personality to its brand.

Influencer marketing creates trust

In nearly any category peer recommendations can play a pivotal role in a buying decision. Ninety percent of people are more likely to trust others they see when scrolling through their feed versus a traditional marketing post by a brand that’s clearly pushing a product or service. 

Influencers typically spend a significant amount of time – in most cases, years – building a relationship with a base of fans or followers. Their credibility (or lack of it) stems from how they show expertise while remaining relatable. The most successful will leverage their emotional connections with audiences to create brand loyalty and inspire people to try something new.

Micro-Influencers help manage risk 

As engagement with traditional media channels like TV, radio, and print has declined, marketing with influencers offers a natural and low-pressure way to get brand-related information in front of a targeted audience. 

Micro-influencers have between 5,000 to 100,000 followers and may operate in niche markets. Some will even have higher engagement and conversion rates compared to mega influencers with millions of followers, due to their perceived authenticity. These smaller-scale influencers can also be powerful for B2B PR efforts, where they offer the advantages of lower costs and the ability to generate social engagement that is more tightly focused in vertical sectors like financial services or business technology, for example. 

Working with micro-influencers is also a way to manage risk and stretch a marketing or PR budget. A group of micro-influencers with small, but highly engaged audiences might be a wiser investment than partnering with a single, more expensive mega- influencer, and there’s always the flexibility to ramp up or down as things progress.  

Finding the right influencer

The right fit is essential to a successful influencer campaign. Brands and their PR teams should look for the right partner based on a highly engaged following rather than a dazzling follower count. Here are other factors to keep in mind:

Relevance 

Look through the influencer’s content to see how it aligns with your messaging. The content and the audience of the influencer far outweigh the amount of traffic they receive. 

Engagement 

Engagement is indicative of how frequently an influencer’s audience engages with their content. Frequency of fan engagement is a key sign of meaningful relationships.

Reach

Though it can actually be overrated, reach is a valid metric, and the trend line of an influencer’s reach is an important factor in planning a future relationship. It’s also vital to keep in mind the platforms prioritized by the target audience, of course. B2B brands will want to reach industry decision-makers who are typically more engaged on Twitter and LinkedIn, while consumer marketers may want to focus on Instagram or Snap. 

Frequency

High-quality content posted on a consistent basis correlates with the traffic and a higher rate of returning visitors, which, in turn, this increases audience engagement and reach.

Authenticity 

Influencers with a smaller ratio of sponsored content appear more authentic and are more trusted by their audiences. Personal anecdotes with natural mention of a brand are also a good idea, as they often hold more weight than a review.

It’s also a good idea to see if a potential influencer has strong relationships with other influencers, and if so, how their respective audiences overlap. The overlap between their audience and yours is a key indicator of whether a campaign or long-term partnership will offer a high return-on-investment.

Influencer content and measurement goals 

Explore the type of content that potential influencers publish and compare it with your audience’s preferences and behaviors.  

Creating content with an influencer is a great way to build a relationship. Here are some ideas:

– Host a live Q&A 

– Hold a webinar with an influencer as the host

– Write a series or blog together

– Record a podcast episode

Match metrics like reach and share of voice with your overall PR goals to examine the impact of your influencer.

Engage with your community and build relationships

Once the collaboration begins, it’s time to focus on building and strengthening relationships with your followers. Offering valuable content on a regular basis will lay a foundation, while aligning with an expert or influencer will deepen the engagement and build trust over time.

What are LinkedIn Stories and How Can PR Pros Use Them?

Since LinkedIn launched its Stories feature last month, it has won mixed reviews. But PR professionals shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it!

Of course, with over 706 million global users, LinkedIn is the go-to social platform for B2B professionals, and it’s probably still the best way to build a network with colleagues, classmates and industry professionals. It’s also a great place to have conversations around hot topics in tech, leadership and current events. 

LinkedIn Stories is similar to Instagram or Facebook stories, allowing users to post an update that will stay live for 24 hours. The story feature makes sense for Instagram and Facebook where you can share real-time updates, but why did LinkedIn feel they needed this feature? 

According to LinkedIn, “LinkedIn Stories enable members and organizations to share images and short videos of their everyday professional moments.” In a pre-COVID world, this feature would have been great to use during industry conferences and events. While the timing of launch may be odd, this is definitely a feature PR pros should convince executives to include in their social strategy. Here are five ways to incorporate LinkedIn stories into yours.

Share professional tips

Instagram and Facebook stories are a great place to share real time pictures, videos and updates, so why not try this out on LinkedIn Stories? Create a social schedule of quotable tips from executives that can be shared a few times a week. The goal here is to share comments or quotes that are short but impactful. You want to grab your audience’s attention very quickly. Make sure content is easy to digest and you’re not cramming everything into one story. If you want to share five tips, create five slides and space out the updates to make a bigger impact.

Highlight ‘events’ in real time

One of the big trends of 2020 was a shift to virtual events, primarily on Zoom. In PR, we believe that securing speaking events for executives is a strong way to promote thought leadership and position clients as industry leaders. Share clips from virtual conferences with short soundbites of high-impact statements from business leaders. When the event is over, if you have access to a full recording, you can tease it in stories as well encouraging connections to watch the full talk if they missed it. 

Host a Q&A

A fun feature on stories is opening a question on your story and asking for followers and connections to weigh in. Consider hosting a weekly or monthly Q&A around current events in a given industry, — maybe on new tech launches or reactive comments around breaking news. Create a two-way conversation between business leaders and their connections. If you’re looking for a way to spread out content, ask connections to submit questions in advance and answer them a few days later. 

Preview company announcements and launches

One of the benefits of LinkedIn Stories is that when users log on, the stories will be featured at the top of the page before they start scrolling. Sometimes user posts can be lost in endless scrolling, but if you have a story, you have a better chance of higher engagement. Did your company just acquire funding or are launching a new tech offering? Tease this announcement in your story. Perhaps preview the headline of a press release to gauge attention and direct users to your company’s page or your own – wherever the press release link is live. Continue this momentum by posting any coverage you generate from the announcement.   

Highlight personal and company achievements

LinkedIn is the perfect place to share job promotions and personal achievements. Use LinkedIn Stories to highlight these wins. On an executive’s LinkedIn Stories, you can also share personnel changes and moves highlighting achievements and accolades. Connections will see how proud a business leader is of their staff, for example, and positive encouragement motivates and inspires any team to exceed expectations. 

How will you use LinkedIn stories? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr.   

Scary Similarities Between Halloween And PR

What do PR and Halloween have in common? They can both be scary as well as fun. Here’s what I mean.

Planning is the key to both

Ever wait for the last minute to plan your costume and feel like a loser at the party? It’s the same way in public relations. For fans of Halloween the planning starts weeks or even months in advance. There’s thought and research put into the ideal costume, candy, décor and celebration. There’s even healthy competition in the suburbs around who can have the most ghoulish yard decorations! In PR, we spend time planning before the “fun” part happens, too. Those plans may be for 90 days to six months, complete with realistic KIPs, media expectations, and outcomes. (Check out some more ways to create that PR plan in this post.) Then we’re ready to dive in and make things happen. Later, we celebrate success. 

Group efforts make the party 

At Crenshaw, we pride ourselves on a company culture that recognizes each person’s successes. We work through things as a team, much like group costumes where everyone has an individual look but together they make up an idea or team, like a LaCroix package or the cast from Schitt’s Creek. Similarly, we hold each other up in public relations. In a pre-COVID office, we could even shout out a question and get multiple suggestions on how to solve the issue. It’s corny to say we have the best team in PR but everyone knows when they walk in the door they are part of an amazing group. Even during these past few months of WFH, we always know our team is just a Slack or Zoom call away.  

PR pros often wear lots of hats….or costumes

During my time in PR, I’ve worked on many different accounts in all different industries – ad tech, retail, cybersecurity, consumer tech, the list goes on. There were days where accounts across the board had major announcements happening, making me feel like I was changing costumes all day depending on what I was doing. Sometimes walking into the office, you never know what ‘costume’ you’ll be wearing. You could be moderating a media interview, holding media training for a CEO, or manning a check-in table at a panel event. Just like for Halloween, we pull out ideas or tricks on a moment’s notice.  

We get very crafty

Some of my favorite costumes were the ones that were homemade and had a lot of thought and time behind them. PR pros are very creative and have the skills to take something bland and make it exciting and relevant. One of our former clients was an emergency “panic button” marketed to women, college students, and runners. After successfully securing reviews in many major consumer tech pubs, our team hit a roadblock – what now? To gain more traction around the importance of being safe when running, we took advantage of Daylight Saving Time. We developed a DST-themed survey and pitched the exclusive to women’s health and fitness publications. Through our creativity we secured an exclusive in Women’s Running Magazine that sparked national TV segments. Without creative thinking, it would have never happened.      

Some tricks, hopefully lots of treats!

One of my favorite parts of PR are the tricks and treats. There are some days where we feel like nothing can go our way. Ask anyone in the business, and they’ll have horror stories about disastrous media events, missed opportunities, or scary clients. Then there are the treats. There is no better feeling than being praised by your boss and colleagues for a job well done, or getting a positive email from someone who is usually hard to please. These little moments of praise and treats remind us why we love working in PR. 

Happy Halloween! Hope your day is filled with lots of PR treats!   

How To Set Expectations In Public Relations

Public relations is known for being versatile, occasionally glamorous, and, yes, stressful. In fact, CareerCast listed “PR executive” as one of the top ten most stressful gigs in its 2019 Most Stressful Jobs report. Some of the pressure we encounter in PR is preventable, however. We’ve all worked with, and been stressed out by, demanding bosses or clients that expect unrealistic outcomes. On the agency side, it’s sometimes because the team overpromises in their eagerness to win a new client. Yet corporate PR officers also fall victim to inflated or impractical expectations when their internal clients don’t understand what’s possible. Here are some tips for avoiding the difficulties that can come with an expectations mismatch. 

Offer honest feedback

Sometimes a client has a program or story idea that they’re certain is a winner, yet the experienced PR team feels less confident. Maybe the story idea simply isn’t compelling or timely enough to capture media attention. PR advisors should voice their opinion when they feel something won’t work. No one wants to be negative, but a viewpoint grounded in experience and phrased constructively can go a long way in heading off trouble later. Often, the idea floated isn’t bad, but it’s incomplete, badly timed, or needs more workshopping. Clients pay us for our recommendations, so we do everyone a service when we share them. 

Explain what is required 

Fortunately, most collaborative ideas can be successful, — with research, work, and creativity. If you want a product launch to be covered in a top-tier publication, journalists will need to talk to someone who has used the product or can speak to its market value. In ad tech, this means getting a brand or publisher client onboard; reporters aren’t going to take our word for it. Stories about products or services in low-interest categories will need to borrow interest in the form of new information, like survey results, new research, or big names attached. Stakeholders must understand that if they can’t secure assets to round out a story, media may not be interested. The same thing goes for business success items; you generally can’t tell a business story in a top media outlet without disclosing financial information. Everyone should be aware of these requirements so they aren’t blindsided later in the process. 

Flag challenges that could impede success

We’re living through COVID-19 and a presidential election year, and both eat up a huge amount of media bandwidth. Media relations deals with the news environment, which is by definition unpredictable. There are huge tech launches, social movements, and hard news stories breaking every day. If a stakeholder is pressing to release something during a big news cycle, it’s the job of PR professionals to explain how the timing will impact reporter interest and coverage. A major announcement or event must be carefully planned around avoidable happenings like earnings calls, congressional hearings, or other news-making things that are on the books, and PR teams need to be flexible for those events that can’t be anticipated. Again, communication is key. 

It’s PR, not ER

News cycles are 24/7, and most PR people are trained to be hyper-responsive to media and client needs. But it helps to establish a cadence for ongoing meetings, email contact, course corrections, and reporting at the beginning of a PR program. Personally, I make myself available from 8am to 7pm on weekdays and only answer email at night or on the weekends if it’s vital. With this, my mind is fresh everyday to think creatively for clients. Others may have a completely different work style or service ethic, but the point is that it should be communicated at the outset.

Never make coverage guarantees

Walk away from any PR person who tells you they can guarantee earned media coverage. A PR team can’t force journalists to cover a particular story, and we don’t exert perfect control over when and how they cover it when they do. Ours is a relationship business, and those relationships will pay off if our insights and content prove helpful to reporters. Being an information resource is an excellent way to build up to getting solid coverage. But for companies who don’t understand that or simply can’t wait, consider mixing earned and paid tactics in the overall plan. Paid opportunities will ensure messaging pull-through while earned media works to validate and build credibility. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, especially in B2B PR.  

Not everything is about coverage

One function of a good PR campaign is to connect organizations with key media targets so they can tell their story to the right audiences. Unfortunately, those opportunities don’t always result in coverage. For example, we may recommend that a client sit down with a journalist or producer to familiarize them with their brand or business category. We call it a background interview because it is just that – an exchange to provide background for a future story. Every now and then, a PR person forgets to explain the goal, and/or the brand executive gets the idea that the meeting was a waste of time. We need to make sure that participants understand the value of such meetings and make sure they budget time for such media interactions in monthly planning.

And earned media isn’t magic

Congrats, you got a big story! Yet the CMO is disappointed because the interview didn’t immediately produce new business leads. This is also an expectations problem. While earned media can sometimes generate sales prospects, it is primarily an awareness play. Placements generally work to get the name in front of the decision- maker to exert influence over time. If the company name is seen in enough articles, people will become familiar with its offering and recognize it, or even bring it up as an option when making buying decisions. 

Don’t confuse PR and sales

Maybe a marketing executive bores a reporter to tears with brand-speak or hits him with a product sales pitch instead of telling a good story. Our job is to educate them in advance about what media need and want. By the same token, an internal executive may think PR content should look and feel like advertising or sales materials. At our agency we create and place a lot of contributed content, and we know clients need to understand that pieces like bylined articles or op-eds cannot be promotional or commercial. Our content is designed to inform, engage, or issue a call to action, not to sell a product or service.  

With better expectations-setting, PR can be less stressful for those of us on the agency or corporate side. But we still love the “good” stress — tight deadlines, competing priorities, and stretch goals – at least that’s what I’m telling myself today! 

How Paid And Organic Social Media Work Together In PR

Social media marketing and PR have become inseparable. That’s because social media plays a large role in most consumer and B2B PR programs. Of course, the right strategy is key to success, but for amplifying or growing the results of a strong PR program, the best option is usually a blend of paid and organic social media. Fully 86% of B2B marketers combine paid and organic social tactics. Here’s why.

Paid vs. organic social

Organic content uses free social media tools to share posts, photos, videos, and stories with the people who already follow a given brand or individual. The only way social media users can see posts organically is if a brand’s followers share its content or they’re following hashtags used by a brand to attract those searching for a specific topic. 

Organic social is the best way to begin to establish a connection with relevant audiences, but it has other benefits.

  • There is no cost to use it

  • Builds brand awareness

  • Extends the reach of thought leadership content 

  • Helps build a community around common topics or interests 

  • Develops campaigns with custom hashtags 

The reach of organic social sharing, however, is self-limiting. That’s where paid social media programs come in. While organic posting is key to reputation and relationship-building, algorithms that drive social content have made the paid social necessary for many campaigns. Its benefits are obvious.

  • Paid social connects brands with audiences that would not have discovered its content 

  • Paid campaigns can reinforce or amplify the message of organic social content

  • B2B companies can use audience targeting to reach industry decision-makers 

Integrating paid and organic social programs 

Organic social media reach is dwindling across most platforms. Organic posts on Facebook only reach about 5.5% of brand followers since Facebook’s algorithm decides which posts users see, and in what order. Here are some tips on finding the equilibrium of paid and organic social tactics for your social media strategy.

Where to post

The balance of paid and organic social media in a given program should be determined according to the social platform involved. The mix should vary according to program goals, and you may choose to incorporate more paid media one platform while organic may better suit another. Promoting a webinar can benefit more from paid posts on LinkedIn compared to Facebook, and audience engagement can thrive on Twitter when using organic tools such as polls and hashtags. People visit different social platforms for different reasons, and knowing which content to share and where to engage will play to the strength of each platform. 

Serve targeted ads based on organic audience

By using organic social media to build relationships with a given audience, you gain data insights about them. Information such as job title, age, and location can help build ads that are as relevant as possible. 

The beauty of social platforms is that they create lookalike audiences according to the data that closely matches a preferred audience segment. This could be webinar registrants or people who have actively engaged with brand content. A lookalike audience consists of people with similar demographics but are new to the brand and thus very valuable.

All promotion isn’t equal

Ads aren’t always the way to go – a captivating, creative organic post can generate buzz and compel your followers to share. In our view, organic social is most useful for amplifying an announcement, namely earned media coverage, change in leadership, or a new partnership. Use relevant hashtags and tag companies, people, or media outlets to ramp up impressions engagement. That being said, if the reach of organic posts isn’t meeting your goals, then you may want to back your content with spend.

An organic post that performs well can be “boosted” by paying to get it in front of more people – one of the benefits of marrying paid and organic social. Boosting is the perfect introduction to paid social and is low-risk, since there’s no need to produce an ad designed for a specific campaign. A running of your weekly or monthly analytics report will include likes, conversions, and profile views to determine the top-performing posts for boosting.

A/B testing

Before finalizing the social media budget allocation, most of us will run different versions of an ad in front of a small audience to see which performs better. You will want to test copy, graphics, ad placement, and audience targeting before deciding on a set budget in order to maximize the campaign’s effectiveness. You can also test organic content performance by setting up manual split tests and tracking results by using UTM parameters.

Optimize for success

A winning B2B social media strategy will typically include both paid and organic social media elements. Determining which approach works best for a given brand will take some testing and adjustment, but once you find what works, the results will be well worth it.

Five Types Of Bylined Content That Work For PR

As outlined in my post on PR tips for effective bylines, bylined content is a powerful part of a B2B PR plan. It can help deliver key messages, communicate expertise and drive thought leadership for business brands. But there are many types of content that build credibility and leadership as part of a strategic PR program. Here are five of the most common.

Traditional Trend Piece

Content that explains a new or emerging trend is among the most valuable for business customers because it helps educate prospects. Educational content is particularly useful for any category with a long purchase cycle and steep learning curve, like software or insurance. Executives who are subject-matter experts can share relevant insights on business happenings. These will typically include a specific point of view about an industry trend, what it means, how businesses should prepare or respond, and possibly even how they can help, although this may only be implied. For example, we represent several ad tech companies at a time when major browsers like Chrome are phasing out support for third-party cookies. What does this mean for digital advertising? How can marketers cope? What does it do for publishers? These issues seem arcane for anyone outside the industry, but they’re hot-button topics in the ad tech lane because the community is rushing to adapt. As in any category, change represents opportunity for those who can seize it.

Personal/Lessons Learned

We love this type of piece because we represent high-growth technology companies often led by entrepreneurs, and they all have stories to tell. What’s more, these pieces are usually both well differentiated and authentic. The important thing to bear in mind for “lessons learned” content is that the most influential and widely shared articles will offer insights for the reader as well as an interesting personal experience. Right now, many businesses have learned and changed enormously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among our base of clients there are some excellent stories about what they’ve learned, how they’ve adapted and how they’re continuing to navigate the situation as business leaders and as citizens. A “lessons learned” piece is also among the most versatile, and it can usually be augmented or even replaced by a video version. 

Service Content

This type of content can overlap with the “lessons learned” category, but it is typically more tactical and less personal. It may also be far more grounded in research. An effective service piece can be in the form of a whitepaper that offers proprietary industry data and outlines key steps for customers who face a specific decision or business dilemma. The best service articles are generous with data but offer clear tips, steps, or checklists for moving a business forward, responding to customer preferences, or effecting specific change. Service content is among the easiest and best types of content for incorporating different types of visuals beyond text, including digital graphics, charts, and short video snippets. 

Opinion/Contrarian Piece

This type of contributed content showcases a personal opinion on an important business, social, or cultural matter. Op-ed pieces and bylined articles are a staple in politics, but they’re equally effective for entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to communicate their ideas and build a reputation for bold thinking. The most effective such articles set out a single take or point of view and back it up with statistics, experience, or other evidence. An op-ed is a perfect vehicle for experts who want to help shape a public conversation. A contrarian opinion and/or a strong call to action can help an op-ed writer stand out. In our world, a less popular opinion may have a better chance of being published in an influential business or trade outlet – but only if it is authentic. 

Call-to-Action

A Call To Action, or CTA, can exist in nearly any type of content but it’s worth calling out because it is essential to achieving content marketing goals. The CTA tells a target audience what action they should take after reading through the post. The most basic CTAs involve encouraging the customer to buy a product or service. Other types might involve asking readers to share the content, make a donation, subscribe to emails, and so forth. CTAs should be short and concise so the reader knows exactly what to do and can easily follow through. 

Leverage bylined articles for maximum exposure

After deciding on your content mix, it’s important to make sure it is seen by the most relevant target audience. Any business can ensure that its pieces are seen by those who matter most: clients, prospects, referral sources, alumni, colleagues, internal staff, and, of course, the media outlets that influence different segments. Promoting content social media and encouraging others to share it as well is important for gaining maximum exposure for your piece. Direct marketing to customers and employees through timely emails is also useful. We will explore the best ways to merchandise business content in an upcoming post. 

 

How (And Why) PR Pros Should Use TikTok

There’s a new social media app taking the world by storm. It’s called TikTok. Ever heard of it? 

Seriously, TikTok has been on the PR radar for a long time, and most recently it made news for different reasons. Media interest peaked over the weekend with reports that a deal involving TikTok, Oracle and Wal-Mart would avert a ban of the app in the U.S. The agreement is still tentative, but it’s meant to resolve the simmering controversy about the app as a potential security risk.

TikTok’s users, however, don’t seem concerned. The app has surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, with 1.65 billion downloads to date, more than 30 million active monthly users in the U.S., and more than 500 million active users worldwide. TikTok is currently the sixth largest social network in the world. 

What started out as a Snapchat-like platform for younger generations of social media influencers and general users for sharing video snippets has grown into an essential platform for marketing and advertising. Whether a brand’s focus is fitness, fashion, food, or anything else, TikTok can connect it to a highly desirable and sometimes elusive audience. 

Why TikTok? 

New and creative social channels should be key elements for consideration in any PR plan, especially for brands aiming to reach a younger audience. TikTok is essential for this demo, as 60% of U.S. users are between the ages of 16 and 24. The app is intrinsic to its users’ lives;  the average Tik Tok visitor opens the app more than eight times per day, spending about 46 minutes on it daily.  

One of the most appealing aspects of TikTok, especially for those younger users, is that everyone is a creator. It’s open to all formats, and there are no distinct guidelines or rules on how the app should be used. Creativity is the only rule. Videos range from singing and dancing, to comedy, reaction videos and challenges. On the flip side, users can find more serious content, with videos focused on topics like politics, climate change, and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Depending on individual users’ personalized recommendations, TikTok plays videos instantly upon the app’s opening, immediately drawing viewers in. This is TikTok’s most central feature – its AI-driven algorithm that shows videos based on user preferences. This same feature helps guarantee that a brand’s videos will reach its target audience – an important distinction TikTok has over other social media platforms. 

TikTok is a powerful brand marketing platform

TikTok makes it easier than ever to promote a brand – reaching the right people in the right ways. Over the last year, it introduced self-serve advertising platforms, including branded hashtags, video ads, branded lenses and much more. Based on a company’s wants and needs, there are a variety of formats to choose from. 

Branded hashtags drive discovery

Branded hashtags encourage users to create videos with a certain hashtag, often accompanied by a specific song or dance move. Videos with branded hashtags are not only available in a user’s normal feed, but also in the Trending section of the Discover tab, making these videos widely viewable. In fact, with TikTok, users rely heavily on hashtags to navigate the app. It’s “For You” discovery page engages far more than Instagram’s “Discover” page, for example.

Pepsi’s #SwagStepChallenge, a great example of a branded hashtag campaign, spread like wildfire on TikTok, as well as on Twitter and Youtube. The challenge became the fastest hashtag challenge using a branded effect to reach one million video creations globally and a whopping 95.5 billion views through user generated content (UGC) on the platform.

Video ads for the win

Video ads are understandably the most common format for ad and marketing purposes on TikTok, with brand takeovers, in-feed videos and top-view videos being popular. Brand takeovers are pop-up ads that typically last 3-5 seconds. They can be videos, GIFs, or images that include links to a landing page. TikTok only allows one brand to take over a category per day, but it guarantees five million impressions, a promise that may well be worth the investment for many. Additionally, brands get immediate attention, as the ads display upon opening the app. 

Branded lenses jump on trends

With branded lenses, brands partner with TikTok to create 2D and 3D lenses for users to “try on” and share. Branded lenses also let companies land in the Trending section of the Discover tab for ten days. According to Prowly, about 64% of TikTok users have tried facial filters and lenses, making it another valuable option for marketers. 

Influencer partnerships spice it up

For any marketer wanting to incorporate TikTok into a brand PR strategy, TikTok influencers are essential. As on other platforms, TikTok influencer marketing ads partner brands with creators to generate and share sponsored content. When the partnership is authentic and the creators are given freedom, these partnerships can be highly successful. 

For example, David Dobrik, one of the most popular social media influencers, with more than 22 million TikTok followers, partnered with Chipotle for its Lid Flip Challenge, a Cinco de Mayo campaign to promote the chain’s free delivery for digital orders. Chipotle discovered that Gen Zers order delivery more than any other segment, making them the perfect audience. To participate in the challenge, users only needed a phone and a Chipotle burrito bowl. 

According to AdAge, in just the first six days of the Lid Flip Challenge with David Dobrik, 111,000 videos were submitted and the promotion garnered a record-breaking digital sales day for the chain, driving app downloads and delivery among the key Gen Z audience.

But Can It Work for B2B?

B2B companies might be hesitant about TikTok because it’s so consumer-oriented, but they shouldn’t count it out. Companies wanting to reach business customers have the same end goal of reaching and forming lasting relationships with their target audiences. So, for B2B companies, how can TikTok help? 

With any brand, it’s important to feel approachable. Stronger relationships can be formed when customers feel connected to your brand on a more personal level. TikTok users want the platform to stay a creative, authentic channel for human-to-human interaction. Do you have a CEO with a unique story? Maybe how he/she established the business, or maybe insights on building a strong culture at work? Sharing tips or short stories in visually appealing ways can engage viewers and make lasting impact. For example, marketer Adrian Brambila shares his success story on TikTok by explaining how he established himself as a marketing leader, and to date, his videos have generated more than 4.7 million likes. 

TikTok is overflowing with innovative, fresh ideas, so brands must be clever with their posts to be noticed. Even for brands thought of as “boring” that is doable. For example, just before the global shutdown in March, The Washington Post began sharing content on TikTok, but they weren’t posting videos of daily headlines. Rather, the outlet shared relatable videos on the daily struggles and adjustments of working from home, incorporating popular trends. They must be doing something right, because the content has generated more than 25.8 million likes. 

Staying relevant, influential and top-of-mind is important for all brands, whether B2B or B2C. Keeping up with content trends is one way of doing that, and some of the best, most buzzworthy ideas online are shared on TikTok. Viral TikTok videos make great templates for high-performing content on other platforms as well – Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. 

With TikTok, B2B companies can connect and engage with more of their audience and show prospects the more creative and personal side of their business. B2B companies not leveraging the app may be missing out on opportunities. 

TikTok: making connections and driving lasting impacts 

TikTok is the first app of its kind. What separates it from other social media platforms is the creativity it affords users. It lets them be both creators and viewers, and exposes them to an endless stream of personalized content. More importantly, the sense of community on TikTok is what draws users in and keeps them coming back for more. It will continue to play a key role in the PR efforts of brands appealing to younger users. If you’re looking to engage with the elusive teen or young 20s demographic, chances are you will find them on TikTok.

6 PR Tips For Staffing A Media Briefing

In B2B public relations, one of the things we do regularly is arrange media briefings on subjects relevant to our clients’ business. Often these briefings translate directly into coverage. But even if they don’t, these meetings are important. They’re useful for relationship building and keep the dialogue going until the time when a company executive’s quotes or comments can be used for a relevant story. 

PR people are nearly always involved in setting up these briefings, and at our agency, we always staff them as well. But to a less experienced PR person, this role can feel awkward. Am I in the way? A fifth wheel? Is this a waste of time when my client can handle it? The answer to these questions is no. A good PR rep should have a role in nearly any media briefing. Below are a few things we should keep in mind when staffing an interview:

Kick things off

It’s usually up to the PR representative to kick off the call and set the tone for the conversation to follow. At the start of each call or meeting, you will want to introduce the spokesperson and have them explain what their company does and what their role is there. Most journalists will do their own research ahead of an interview, but a verbal summary is a good conversation-starter. It also fulfills the important goal of giving the spokesperson a chance to reinforce their expertise on the topic at hand and to steer the interview to the story we want to share.

Be personable

People run late to meetings. If you’re waiting on a conference line and the journalist is first to join, it’s good to introduce yourself and thank them for taking the time to talk. Any good PR person sets up a brief for their client ahead of an interview, but it can also be an ice-breaker when waiting for the interview to start. That’s a good time to ask about a previous article they’ve written, current events or just how their day is going. Not only do you want your spokesperson to succeed, but creating a friendly relationship with a journalist will pave the way for future pitches.

Let the interview play out, but pay attention

If on the phone or Zoom, the PR person staffing the interview should go on mute once things begin. The journalist wants to speak to the expert or executive because they’re knowledgeable about a specific topic, so don’t crowd them. A good PR rep will listen closely and take notes on key points made during the conversation. Company spokespersons often share useful information or data we might not even know during a journalist discussion that can be applied to future outreach. Especially in tech PR, journalists often request data to back up a claim and the PR staffer will of course need to take care of any follow-up. We particularly like listening to briefings with C-level executives because they typically share information freely, have strong points of view about key topics, and will often say something we haven’t heard before.

Chime in if necessary

Occasionally a PR person will need to step in and make a course-correction. It happens rarely, but sometimes a spokesperson can go for too long on a tangent where they wander away from the question. Or they may divulge information not intended to be public. (This one’s tricky and must be addressed right away.) Conversely, the journalist may stray into areas that have been agreed as off-limits for a particular conversation. If this happens, PR pros shouldn’t be afraid to chime in and get things back on track. If a lack of focus is a frequent problem for a given spokesperson, it’s worth a media training session to heighten their comfort level and preparation for future conversations.

Follow up 

Be sure to follow up with a journalist after the interview. Besides offering thanks, you will want to recap the major points discussed and note any specific requests for data or clarification. You will also want to know how the journalist reacted to the information and whether anything was incomplete or unclear. As PR pros we never want to be overbearing, but if you’re expecting a story to go live quickly and don’t see anything, you will need to follow up again to get a sense of timing.

Offer spokesperson feedback

It’s also important to offer feedback to the executive or expert spokesperson who participated in the interview. We like to be constructive, but candid. It may be that the exec didn’t explain his line of business fully, or that he spoke over the head of a non-expert. Or, maybe he was thorough but could have gotten to the point a little faster. Constructive feedback will strengthen the relationship and help all parties improve even a good performance.

3 Tips For A Killer Media Tour

The media tour has been around for nearly as long as the PR industry. It helps build relationships between a brand spokesperson and multiple journalists over a short period of time. The term is a little misleading, however. It dates back to the days when authors would travel from city to city to promote a new book in a blitz of media interviews, or when celebrities push a film to 20 cities in an afternoon of local TV chats via satellite. Today most media tours aren’t exactly like that. They happen when we set up back-to-back in-person meetings between an expert and carefully selected reporters who find his story particularly relevant.

There are many reasons why media tours have survived so long. Maybe an executive is based overseas but will be in the U.S. for a short time. Or perhaps a spokesperson with unique expertise is available on a limited basis. Often these meetings serve more of an introduction than a formal interview, but the tour may also be centered around specific industry news, like a new product or executive change. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a successful media tour, whether in-person or virtually.

Manage expectations on both sides

Make sure the nature of each meeting is clear – whether it will be a casual background conversation or a formal, on-the-record interview for a specific story angle. There should be no confusion between the reporter and the spokesperson, who should be prepared with sample questions and background on the journalist (see below). During the meeting, individual PR reps may operate in different ways, but in general, the PR person is there to observe, occasionally steer the conversation, but not to have an active role in the discussion. Of course, we need to be prepared to jump in if things go off-course, or if the spokesperson needs help in reponsing or obtaining data.

Put thought into scheduling

Be sure to schedule meetings with attention to detail. If the tour’s goal is to introduce a brand executive from overseas to U.S. media, be mindful of jet lag and cultural differences — even on Zoom. Don’t plan meetings too closely together unless the spokesperson is very experienced or the schedule requires it. Be discreet when arranging interviews with publications that compete with one another to avoid awkward moments. Also, remember that no matter how much thought you put into prep for a schedule of meetings, things will go wrong in small ways. Journalists will run late or cancel, security lines for office buildings may be long, technology will fail, or Ubers may not show. Be flexible, build in extra time, and make sure your phone is charged and its address book holds the contact information for all relevant parties. 

Overprepare

Although some media tours are set up as a general introduction, all spokespersons should be prepared with the full background of the journalist involved, the media outlet’s orientation and history, and the interviewer’s goals. A sample Q&A is always advisable, even if the two already know one another. We typically prepare a full briefing doc beforehand.  In addition to helping the conversation flow, it’s useful to keep certain topics top-of-mind so the interviewee won’t be caught off-guard. The most successful media meetings occur when there’s a dynamic conversation and flow between the spokesperson and reporter.

After a successful media meeting, the reporter is far more likely to have the organization and spokesperson on their radar and to reach out for future stories. In this way, in-person chats are invaluable. We can’t wait to return to that old-fashioned way to meet!