An Evolving PR Industry Gathers at the PRSA International Conference

As you might have seen on twitter, I spent the last few days in Washington D.C. at the PRSA International Conference.  You might remember another PRSA conference that I covered in NYC.  Well for some reason, they actually enjoyed my writing and invited me to cover another conference.

It hasn’t even been a year since the last PRSA conference that I attended, and it quickly became apparent here in D.C. that the PR world is evolving.  It’s growing and it’s learning.  While many of the speakers seem to be at the same point they were a year ago, the attendees are clearly more knowledgeable, asking better, harder questions, and seem to have begun to grasp how this whole social media thing plays into PR and communications.

Overall the speakers ranged from really insightful to the bare bones basics to pretty useless.  Keep in mind that, as is the issue in any conference, the range of experience amongst the attendees makes it difficult for speakers to please everyone.  I’ll give you a quick summary of the panels that I attended.

Keynote by Jim VandeHei – POLITICO

I really enjoyed Jim’s talk.  He’s someone who’s personally experienced the changing world of online media.

His best points:

  • People are going to 25-30 different news sites on a given work day.
  • People start their web consumption when they get into work and stop when they get home.
  • It’s the “age of niche”.

Jim has experienced first hand the massive destruction of the news industry.  He explained that today is the “age of niche” where people are looking for specific expertise.  They’re looking for what they really need to know, not the clutter.

It’s because of this that we’re seeing niche publications filling in the gaps and big overall media sources are losing traction. You can now deliver a message or ad to a niche audience with direct precision.

Jim then touched on people’s changing reading habits.  People are fickle, constantly changing their resources for information, their mobile devices, and their expectations.  What someone expected 3 months ago might not be what they expect today.

Companies and information sources have to be in a constant state of evolution to survive. Smaller, agile companies and minds will thrive.

Shake and stir: Combining Social Media and Traditional PR Techniques for High-Impact Results

Speakers: Michael L. McDougall, Catherine Dunkin, Nicole Ravlin

This was a panel that I have to say, I was pretty disappointed with.  They did have a unique method of selecting content, by having the audience vote on which case studies they wanted to see.  While the panel was somewhat entertaining, it wasn’t very useful in the end.

They only gave 2 minutes per case study and pretty much just explained what happened without providing a lot of information around the case studies which is really what people need to know.  I can look up the videos on youtube.

They discussed some obstacles that they faced in bringing in employees and CEO’s to participate spoke about everything from the southwest rapping flight attendant to the old spice campaign.

Lethal Generosity: How to Do Big Business by Doing Good

Speaker: Kami Huyse @Kamichat

I’ve heard Kami speak before and so I knew this would be a good session.  She broke down different types of cause marketing based on a number of criteria.

Cause marketing can be linked. When brands just choose a cause to support because it’s convenient or popular, without it actually being aligned with the company’s mission and brand, it is the least effective.

A brand can contribute resources to help a cause.  For example, Ford donated a car to Mark at Invisible People (who does some amazing stuff…you have to watch his videos)

A brand can be connected to a cause.  Take up a cause that’s aligned with your goals and also shows a positive ROI at the end.  Yahoo used the “You in?” campaign to encourage people to post status updates to report acts of kindness in social networks.  It also drove users to their new status update tool.

A campaign can also be synergized when it is aligned with your business goal but resides in your CSR program.  Kami gave Pepsico’s Pepsi Refresh Project as an example.

Advance Your SEO skills

Speaker – Lee Odden

I was able to catch the last half of Lee’s talk, which I didn’t want to miss because Lee and his SEO blog is THE resource when it comes to SEO in my mind.  I’ve been following Lee’s work for as long as I’ve tweeted…and he promised me he’d add me to his marketers with beards facebook group if I went to his session.

Here are some key takeaways.

Blogs are search magnets.

Basic SEO tips:
– Optimize readers first
– When you create a blog post, use keywords in the url.
– The title might be 15 words long but shorten up the url to the essence of the keywords.
– Use synonyms in your posts…but don’t focus on this too much as it often occurs naturally.
– Link to older blog posts using keywords.
– Encourage inbound links wherever possible.
– When you can access the same content from two different links, it’s possible that both won’t be ranked so only have the content on one page within your site.

Facebook SEO:
– It’s all about the number of “likes”
– Name of your fan page can include keywords

Twitter SEO:

– Name bio and url are really the only things you can optimize. The links are no-follow.

Become a PR Influencer to Drive Business Value

Speakers: Deirdre Breakenridge, Geoff Livingston, Sarah Evans, Mark Drapeau

This was an interesting panel, action packed with some of my favorite PR leaders.  Usually, people complain when speakers comment on their own “influence”, as it can come off as bragging.  On this panel however, it was the topic of discussion.

Can personal influence be used to drive business results for your company?  How can you become more “influential”?  These are the types of questions that the panel set off to answer.

It was a long panel and lots of information, but I’m just going to quote each one of the panelists with their best insight:

  • “Your role [in building community] isn’t to dominate the conversation, it’s to inspire it.” – Geoff Livingston
  • “When the person becomes too big for their own community, you lose touch and you’re not longer able to help them.” – Mark Cheeky_Geeky
  • “Make sure you’re thinking about what you can give to the community before what you can get out of it.” – Sarah Evans
  • “There are influential people who are brilliant, who don’t have thousands of followers.  They’re brilliant because they’re still listening and providing value.  They’re staying close knit with their community.” – Deidre Breakenridge

Overall it was a really interesting discussion and the audience asked a lot of great questions.  So is influence something you should seek out in your career?  It sure seems to be playing a bigger role in where opportunities arise.

The Re-Emerging Trend for Integrated Communications

Speaker: Kyle Strance

I watched Kyle of Vocus speak about a lot of really basic social media stuff.  Most of it was pretty dry and lacked any real focus.  He went through random areas of social media from ranking high on Google to pitching journalists to keyword clouds and sentiment analysis.

The content didn’t have much meat to it and there really wasn’t much you could take away.

Here are some of the main points from the talk:

  • You no longer have control over your brand.
  • Social Media hasn’t replaced Google search.  If you make someone scroll down on google, they won’t find you.
  • Journalists aren’t reading your emails anymore.  They’re getting around 300 press releases a day.  They’re finding their next stories by searching Google and reading twitter.
  • Your news release can also help consumers make a decision.
  • Sentiment technology is 80% accurate

I actually disagree with a lot of what he said.  Things like, “all journalists aren’t reading your emails and that they’re finding their stories on Google and twitter” just aren’t true…as you’ll learn in the next speaker review.

He made a big case for the accuracy of sentiment analysis, which to me is still way too inaccurate to be considered a worthwhile business tool.  It’s definitely interesting and has a lot of potential.  To say it’s something that you have to be using today just doesn’t seem on point.

I’d like to see more actual applications with these concepts and ideas next time.  The talk was very based on his personal observations.  As someone representing a media outreach platform, it would have been great to hear about the new media space and how to adapt your integrated communications strategy.

The New Rules of Media Relations

Speaker – Michael Smart

I finished my conference with a talk from Michael Smart and I have to say, it was the best presentation I’ve seen in a while.  If I wrote down all the gold that he was spitting out, this would be a blog post in its own.  I’ll try to summarize as best I can.

Michael was a great presenter with entertaining content, a smooth flow, and really smart ideas that were easy to grasp and apply to your own situations.

The talk was pretty much all about pitching media.  I would have liked to see more on the blogger end of things, but he ran out of time and didn’t get to dig into blogger outreach too heavily.

Either way, his insights into how to effectively get coverage for your company was truly helpful.  He constantly supported his ideas with examples, and even specific subject lines that we could try ourselves.

Here were the key takeaways:

  • It’s not always possible to build relationships with journalists, as you’ll often be advised.  So you’ll usually have to rely on the quality of your stories.
  • What is a journalists’ favorite topic?  Themselves (same with bloggers)
  • It’s all about personalization.  The message has to show that it was written for that specific journalist and no one else.
  • If you do you’re job right, you’ll be a regular asset to them.
  • The most important thing that an email must show is the end. Keep it to 304 paragraphs tops so when the journalist previews it, they can see the bottom.

The only purpose of a subject line is to get them to open the email

  • When writing subject lines, you should still be honest and consistent.
  • Think about magazine covers.  They use numbers lists, tell stories, and ask questions to draw readers in.
  • Create curiosity.

Tie your story to a trend.  To journalists, three examples make a trend.

How have journalists professional lives changes over the last five years?

  • Fewer reporters covering more beats that they’re not familiar with.
  • Have to write stories in new and more formats.
  • Overworked and too busy.
  • Hard to get a hold of them but more receptive to new materials.
  • Barrier to entry it higher but it’s easier to get coverage.

DIFT – Do It For Them

Gather for them everything they’ll have to end up getting themselves.

  • Videos
  • Pictures
  • Quotes

How to reach bloggers

  • They’re all about the conversation
  • They want to be the last word
  • Comment on their blog but disclose that you’re a PR rep
  • RT their tweets
  • After a while, email a more pointed thought or question directly to blogger
  • Casually and comfortably propose an idea.  Less formally then mainstream media.
  • They’re not really as interested in what’s in it for their readers…it’s all about them.
  • Prove you’ve read the blog.

So that is my full recap of the PRSA International Conference.  As far as the content goes, it was actually really useful.  As far as the networking goes, I would like to see more focus put on this in the future.  They did one mixer in the exhibit hall that was great.  More things like that to bring the attendees together would really be valuable.

Did you go to PRSA?  What did you think?

View all the photos in this post and more on flickr.

Book Review: 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

I’m trying out viddler for the first time. I loved how simple it was. The only hiccup was the flash player crashing after I recorded this whole video the first time. Are you guys using viddler? Is youtube or something else better?

This week I reviewed the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout. It’s a book that I think every marketer should read. A lot of the stuff they talk about, we already kind of know. The way they present it though, allows you to understand how marketing works, at it’s core.

The big takeaway I got from this book is that much, if not all of marketing is about perception. In business, perception is everything. There are a number of factors, or “laws” that explain why consumers, perceive businesses the way they do.

Each one of these laws are carefully, but clearly laid out in this book. I’ve read books where authors dance hypothetically around obscure ideas. Reis and Trout sound like they know their shit, and make it very easy for you to grasp their message. No bullshit.

Published in 1993, many of the examples they use are something a millennial may have to rack their brains to remember (if they’re like me). The lessons behind the examples however, are as relevant today as they were then.

Give it a read. If you already have, what did you think?

Learn more:  The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! [Amazon Affil]

Book Review: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

I’ve wanted to start doing book reviews for a while, so I’m just going to kick it off with this one.  I just finished reading this book, but have been running barefoot since I was about halfway through it a couple weeks ago (I know I’m a slow reader).

I just got back from a 6 mile run on the beach, barefoot, and needed to let you guys know about this book.  I have some serious knee issues and haven’t been able to run more than 2 miles without going through a lot of pain…until I read this book.

Check out the review, and if you’ve read the book, let me know what you thought of it.

I will always be completely honest about the books I read.  I’ll give each book a 1-10 rating at the end. I hope that you’ll find the quick reviews helpful…

Amazon (affil): Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Why Scribnia Is Valuable To ME

scribniaIf you haven’t heard the big news from my last post, I’ve been hired as the community manager for Scribnia.  Perhaps because of my newly acquired position, you may think that a review of Scribnia on my blog may be biased…fair enough.  I hope that if you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you know I wouldn’t post anything that I didn’t think would be valuable to the community.  Either way, I’m not going to tell you that Scribnia is awesome, or that you have to go sign up, or even that it would be valuable to you as a blogger/reader.  I’m going to tell you why Scribnia is valuable to me, as a blogger and reader, and I’ll let you decide whether or not it’s valuable to you too.  Fair?

Value as a Blogger

  1. Transparency. One of the big values of “social media”, bloggers are expected to be transparent and gain respect and loyalty for doing so.  I’m open with my community members about who I am, my honest views, or any bias that I might have.  When people write a review about me on Scribnia, they are increasing my transparency, allowing new readers to feel more comfortable when visiting my blog for the first time.
  2. Learn how I’m viewed by my readers. I might have a bias that I didn’t realize existed.  My readers might be looking for different kinds of posts.  They aren’t necessarily going to come out and tell me what they think of my writing.  Scribnia is a call to action, where your readers are asked to share their opinions.  You can add a “rate me” widget to your blog and encourage your readers to share their thoughts.
  3. SEO.  My Scribnia page will come up when people search for my name on search engines (once the site goes public).
  4. Engage conversation about YOU. I’ve told businesses before that their customers are talking about their brand online and that they need to engage the conversation.  Time to practice what I preach.  If my readers care enough to share their thoughts about me as a blogger on Scribnia, I have the opportunity to convert negative views into positive ones, and to further engage with my community.  Danny Brown does a great job of joining the conversation about him and responding to reviews of his work.

Value as a Reader

  1. Find new bloggers. A lot of recommendation engines that I’ve seen base much of the recommendation on content, without really taking into account my personal reading preferences.  Scribnia takes the reviews that I’ve written, and based on how high or low I’ve ranked different aspects of each author, other authors that might be valuable to me are proposed.  I can also browse by category or industry to find new bloggers and publications.
  2. Share. I love to suggest bloggers that I follow to others.  When Scribnia users view my profile, they can see all the reviews that I’ve written, which bloggers I like or don’t like and why.  Linking people to other bloggers is great, but it  helps to show them why I like those bloggers.  (Tip: Try it out on Twitter… next #followfriday, give your recommendation’s twitter name and provide a link to their Scribnia page)
  3. Preview bloggers.  There are a lot of author profiles I have come across that don’t have a very good “about” description.  I’d have to read multiple posts before really understanding what the blog is about and the blogger’s style.  This is especially time consuming when doing blogger outreach.  Bloggers typically condemn misplaced pitches to their blogs and the last thing you want is to anger the bloggers in the community you’re reaching out to.  By reviewing an author’s Scribnia profile, you can learn a little bit more about a blogger before contacting them giving you a better understanding of what they find valuable.

All in all, I accepted the job of Community Manager for Scribnia for a number of reasons, one being because I thought it provides a valuable service that bloggers would really appreciate.  We are trying to build a blogging community for authors, readers and their networks to connect, share and grow.  Once we have developed a solid amount of quality content, Scribnia will be open to the pulic.  If you think you’d be a quality contributing member of the alpha community, send me an email at dspinks5@gmail.com for an invite.

You can find my Scribnia page here.  Review me…I dare you. (=

Bookmark and Share To share specific article, click on the post title so that you’re only looking at individual post, then share.

Where Twibes Went Wrong

twibesTwibes is a new twitter app that allows users to choose their top 10 favorite twitters. The users’ picks are then included in a running tally and a list of the twitterers that were chosen the most is provided.  I think this is actually a pretty cool concept that could work well if done right.

It’s like an ongoing record of recommendations, something that could be good for things like #followfriday.  I would find it valuable to see how many times each twitterer was recommended every friday.  I’d be more likely to follow someone that recieved a great number of recommendations than someone who recieved one…right?  Maybe, but making that assumption is where Twibes went wrong.

Twibes ignored a very vital characteristic of the twitterverse, it’s focus on personal interaction. #followfriday works so well because it allows users to share with their followers the people that they enjoy following most.  It is a personal recommendation, and it is not based on popularity.  I’ve seen recommendations to follow people that have 25 followers, and followed them!  On twitter, a personal recommendation goes a long way.

Twibes takes away the value of a personal recommendation, and makes it a popularity contest.  To make things worst, in order to view the list of recommended users, you HAVE to recommend TEN people, no more no less.  That means that even if you only really have 5 favorite twitterers, you have to choose 5 more that you may not even want to recommend.

Then, to pour salt on that wound, you HAVE to either send out DMs to every person you recommended, or post a tweet listing them which completely disregards the personal interaction aspect of twitter (yep, that means you have to put your password in too).  Only then can you view the list of recommended users, which I’m sure you can guess, it is pretty much a list of the most followed users.

Twibes needs to rethink how recommendations and people work on twitter, and stop sending me automated DMs.