Direct-to-Consumer PR: Are you speaking directly to potential customers?

19 09 2008

As online tools like search engines and social media have become more mainstream, a growing number of consumers look beyond traditional media when it comes to learning about products and services. This trend has created a big opportunity for companies to speak directly with consumers instead of having to rely solely on media gatekeepers to share their messages.

Search Engines are a PR Pro’s Best Friend
No offense to dog lovers, but search engines have become a PR pro’s best friend. Why?

  • 88 percent of internet users said search engine results are a factor that drive them to visit a web site. (Deloitte and Harrison Group, Jan. 2008)
  • 78 percent of consumers with internet access said they now use the internet to find a local business more than they did two years ago. (WebVisible and Nielsen/NetRatings report, Oct. 2007)
  • 74 percent of internet users turn to search engines to find local business information – the #1 source used. Print Yellow pages come in second at 65 percent. (WebVisible and Nielsen/NetRatings Report, Oct. 2007)
  • 48 percent of consumers are prompted to conduct online searches because of news articles they’ve read. (BIGresearch’s Simultaneous Media Survey 10, August 2007)

Press releases can be search-engine optimized using keywords that consumers are using to search for solutions to a particular need on Google or Google News – such as “high-speed internet providers” and “discount name brand fashion.” Drafting news releases with important keywords in mind can help raise your release’s ranking with Google searches, which makes it more likely to get clicked on and read directly by consumers.

Corporate Newsroom as a Hub, Not a Destination
The social aspect of social media gives brands the opportunity to increase their visibility by creating easy ways for its advocates to share its news and messages with their own connections. To do that, you have to think about creating content for journalists AND consumers.

One way brands can take advantage of the sharing nature of consumers is to think about its online newsroom as a hub instead of a destination. Ford, for example, has done an amazing job of creating a newsroom that enables its advocates to help spread news for each of its major vehicle launches.

Some of the features companies can include in a consumer-friendly newsroom are downloadable high-resolution photos and embeddable videos for bloggers, quotes from executives, social bookmarking buttons, links to additional online conversations about the brand, fleshed out story/blog post angles, the option for visitors to subscribe to future news by RSS and more. This creates a place for consumers and advocates – in addition to journalists – to gather information and pass it on to others.

Traditional Media Relations Isn’t Dead. It’s Evolved.
Traditional media is as important as it has ever been in the past. But to continue growing our clients’ businesses in today’s marketplace, PR pros will need to understand how they can also reach out directly to consumers and show up where and when they need our clients’ products and services.

What other ways can we build relationships with consumers that add value to their lives and to our brands? How else can we empower advocates to help tell their friends about the product of service they just have to try?


Online News Hits are Better Than The Print Versions

4 09 2008

In case you missed it yesterday, a top 75 U.S. newspaper offered its ENTIRE newsroom voluntary buyouts – all 320 reporters, editors, copy editors, etc. According to the paper, one of the major reasons it’s in a slump is because advertisers are pulling dollars from print newspapers and opting for online sites, including online news sites.

Is this more evidence that news outlets’ Online versions have become more important than their print counterparts?

When I started in this business, clients LOVED print news stories on their brands. Many seemed to prefer them over great TV news hits. I suspected it had something to do with being able to physically pick up a newspaper or magazine, proudly wave it around for the entire marketing department to see and then leave it along with a Post-It note in the CEO’s inbox.

Since those days, the shift in emphasis to Online newsrooms by media outlets has surged, but many clients still seem to see it as second-rate to the print version. It’s not. In fact, I think that in most cases it’s a better hit for the client. Here’s why:

  • Advertisers go where the crowds are. The reason many are shifting more dollars in to online advertising is because many news outlets’ Web sites now have more unique visitors than they have in circulation for their respective print versions. That means more people potentially see the great feature article on your brand.
  • It’s easier for readers to share online news stories about your brand with their colleagues, family and friends. Think about the time it takes to make copies of a print article and walk it to everyone in your department or to scan it in seven times to get the contrast right so you can email it. Now think about how easy it is to copy and paste a URL into an email or Digg a story.
  • The online versions don’t have the same space issues as their print counterparts. That means there’s a better chance of the article on your brand NOT being left on the editing room floor due to space constraints.
  • News organizations are focusing a lot of their attention on building and growing their online versions. They need to fill it with great editorial content to attract readers so they can attract advertisers. That’s how they make money. Since they’re looking for great content – and lots of it – it provides more opportunities for your brand’s stories to be told.

I’m not knocking great placements in print versions of newspapers and magazines. The more places that positive stories about your brand show up, the better. But I’d argue that we shouldn’t look at online news stories as a less-desired placement.

What reasons would you add? Why should we be just as happy – if not more happy – with an online hit as we are with print versions? Or do you totally disagree?

*Cross-posted from my little corner of the online world.

Relentless Thanks For July

1 08 2008

Our relentless thanks for July go to:

Todd Andrlik, Gavin Heaton, Gerry Riskin, Tom Kane, Becky Carroll, Karen Miller Russell, Doug Simon, Martin Lynch, Leanne Heller, Jonathan Yarmis, Ampatzis Panagiotis, Joseph Wilburn, John Koetsier, Ruth Seeley, Luke, Katie Paine, David Alston, David Maister, Laurie Wilhelm, Rodger Johnson, Geoff Livingston, David Mullen, Chris Brogan, Jose Teixiera, Jeff Davis, Scott Baradell, Sherrilynne Starkie, Lara Kretler, Lynn Crymble, Heather Yaxley, Tyler Hurst, Kristen Smith, Terry Morawski, Phil Gomes, Robert French, Josh Morgan, Barbara B. Nixon, Todd Defren, Paul Ritchie, Timothy Parcell, Boyd Neil, Claire Celsi, and Ed Lee.

A blog is only as strong as the conversation it inspires. Thank you for your support! On to August!

Readers Vote on PR Pitches They Want Reporters to Cover

30 07 2008

We sometimes open media pitches by saying something about believing it will be interesting for that outlet’s readers/viewers/listeners. is taking PR people up on that in a new way that turns the assumption of what readers want covered into the reality of what they want covered.

Now, PR folks can submit their pitches publicly to Fast Company’s “The Killer Pitch” blog and readers vote the pitches up or down based on what they’d like to read about. If you’re trying to get an idea of it in your head without clicking on that link, think Digg.

This is the first I’ve heard of this, but I could see other media outlets doing it moving forward. Why wouldn’t they?

Why it’s Great for Media
1. It involves readers in the editorial decision-making process. Giving your audience some ownership in the finished product helps make for more loyal readers.
2. It ensures that Fast Company covers topics its subscribers want to read about in its pages and online.
3. It could cut back on the number of pitches individual reporters receive and reserve more of their time for researching, interviewing and writing.

Why it’s Great for PR
1. Whether the story is written or not, readers who participate in the process see your pitch and learn a bit about your new product, service, etc.
2. It requires more time spent crafting the pitch to as close to near perfection as possible, since it will be made public.

What do you think about this move? Does it provide a great opportunity for media relations? Do you think others will follow?

*Thanks to my friend Mark Tosczak for the tip-off.

Product Placements May Require In-Programming Disclosure

23 06 2008

Today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal includes an article reporting that product placements are going to get FCC scrutiny. It’s one each of us in the marketing business should read and a developing story we should follow, because it could have a big impact on both paid and unpaid product placements going forward.

With more consumers using digital recorders to fast forward their way through TV spots, product placements are on a significant rise to reach them within programming. The WSJ article reports that Nielson Co. found product placements are up 40 percent in the first quarter alone on broadcast TV shows and that spending on paid product placements is up 33.7 percent from a year ago.

The FCC is expected to start a formal look at new requirements for product placement disclosure. New rules could completely change the product placement game for advertisers and PR folks, depending on the outcome of the FCC’s rule review. One of the biggest recommendations for the tool is to think of it as product integration. The product should show up contextually, relevantly and become part of the story. Anything too promotional becomes a distraction to viewers and typically turns them off. So imagine what may happen the next time you’re watching “The Office.” Those prominently placed HP computer monitors may require a flashing bubble across the bottom to make sure you know that HP provided them.

This is also big news for those on the TV side of the fence. I’ve received calls from several producers who work on reality shows asking if a client would like to provide free products in return for recognition in the credits. It’s one way they look to cut back on expenses and fall under their budgets.

What do you think about product placements? Do you think the FCC is going too far or do you think it needs to reign in the dramatic growth of what some are calling “stealth advertising?”

(Thanks to my friend Maria Lachapelle for pointing me to the WSJ article!)

Relentless Thanks!

1 06 2008

Each month, to express our gratitude for your generous contributions to our conversation, we’ll recognize each of you, encourage you to keep coming back, and ask that you invite your friends and colleagues to join us at relentlessPR. We extend our relentless thanks to all of you who contributed in some way to our conversation since our official start on May 19th:

Jim Anderson, Larry Bodine, Tom Kane, More Partner Income, Rjon Robins, Jenny Love, Michelle Golden, Kevin O’Keefe, Jim Calloway, Dr. Alan Freitag, Leo Bottary, Stacia, Boyd Neil, Eric Eggertson, Marc Rapp, Liza Jones, Dan Hull, Todd Andrlik, Maria Palma, Martin Lynch, Ed Lee, David Mullen, Chris Brogan, Scott Baradell, Sherrilynne Starkie, Amanda Chapel, Lara Kretler, Susan Iskiwitch, Kelli Matthews, Matt Kucharski, and Kami Huyse.

On to June!

A Client’s Preferences? Just Ask.

26 05 2008

Client service excellence is in the eye of the beholder. What one client sees as great, another regards as average or even unnecessary. Here’s a simple illustration of that point to which we can all relate.

You’re in a fine dining restaurant enjoying a quiet dinner for two. One of you has finished your dinner before the other. Depending on the philosophy of the restaurant and the way the waiter was trained, one of three scenarios will unfold. Waiter 1, to prove he’s being attentive and certain you do not want an empty plate in front of you, will ask if you are finished and remove your plate from the table. Waiter 2 will not attempt to take plates from the table until both of you appear to be finished eating (My preference by the way). Waiter 3 will respond as Waiter 1, but will ask you a different question. Waiter 3 will ask, “May I take your plate for you?” offering you the opportunity to either have your plate taken away immediately or both together.

Waiter 1 is well intended. He’s doing as he’s been trained and will not take my plate until he’s asked if I’ve finished my meal. The awkward moment comes when the waiter attempts to physically remove my plate from the table. I’ll offer him a subtle hand signal that clearly means don’t, not yet. A look of confusion comes over the waiter’s face. He’s thinking: Why wouldn’t he want the plate taken away? What will my boss say if he walks by and sees an empty plate in front of this customer?

While I may prefer the way Waiter 2 was trained, there are other customers who would get annoyed at having an empty plate sitting in front of them. Waiter 3 not only asks the customer’s preference, but he asks the right question. In my book, he’s covered with his customer and his boss by offering service specific to the individual.

If there were a set formula for how to meet the needs of all clients, client service wouldn’t be nearly as challenging. While this was obviously a simple illustration, it highlights the importance of understanding your client’s preferences on a broad range of issues. Asking the right questions and offering service specific to each client can mean the difference between a good relationship and a great one.