Published on March 19, 2014
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Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 2 CHAPTER ONE How Social Broke PR Life as a PR professional and traditional marketer used to be easy. In the old days, public relations was simply a matter of taking our pitches and our dollars to the media gatekeepers. We’d take out an advertisement in the newspaper. We would snag a 30-second spot on television or pay a million bucks for a Superbowl ad, and the gatekeepers would guarantee us access to their audiences. After all, there weren't that many. There was the local newspaper, the local radio station, the local television station and the national networks. They would give us access to new audiences. We would convert the audience. Everything was great. Along came the Internet, and suddenly everything started to break. Anyone could put up a webpage. Anyone could be a publisher, be a media source. In the beginning, it wasn't so bad— people largely relied on their traditional media sources and saw the Internet as a fad. But the game changed forever once social media and new media came along. Social media encompasses things like blogging and online reviews. It includes Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, podcasting, WhatsApp, Candy Crush, and all the ways people communicate in the modern world. Social media includes a variety of rich media types such as video, audio, and interactive. Apps like Vine, Instagram, Stitcher, and Snapchat provide a rich media experience in ways that traditional media simply could not keep up with. Mobile devices made media creation and consumption easier than ever, but channel disaggregation meant that audiences moved away from stalwarts to social apps, and traditional media companies simply lost their audiences.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 3 Most important, social media broke traditional media models in one fundamental way: traditional media organizations are no longer the gatekeepers and arbiters of information or audiences. They no longer have a monopoly on what gets seen, heard, or shared. At best, their publication of a story validates a particular piece of information or article. At worst, they are simply redundant. The reality is that everyone has access to the audience, and audience is transient. Our CEO, Todd Defren, is famous for saying that the guy who is in front of you at Starbucks on his phone could be vastly more inﬂuential than the reporter at the New York Times you're trying to pitch. This guy may have an audience of 600,00 people, and when he shares something, people talk about it. They reshare it. And he could, with one tweet, comment, or Facebook post, ruin your business completely. Ask any hotel how powerful a simple comment like “bedbugs” is on a travel recommendation site. The media outlets that will survive and prosper in this arrow are the ones who recognize that their brands are entirely about trust. People trust that when they read something in the New York Times, it has been vetted and validated to some degree. But that trust only goes so far; the assumption has been for years that a traditional media outlet owned its audience, that their loyalty was baked in. Social media and new media have proven that assumption is incorrect, and the traditional media
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 4 outlets are paying the price. B2B Magazine, a well-known business magazine is closing up shop this year, folded into Ad Age, because the audience - and subsequently the advertising dollars - dried up on them. It wasn’t that people are suddenly less interested in B2B marketing; in fact, quite the opposite is true. They simply lost their power of being a gatekeeper of B2B news and didn't adapt fast enough. Another famous publication, Lloyd’s List, was the oldest continuously running newspaper on the planet. They announced at the end of 2013 that they're going digital, bringing an end to a 279 year tradition.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 5 Think about that for a second. This was a publication that predated electricity; now, they are saying that they have to go digital because they cannot maintain the cost of doing business on paper, a practice that served them well for almost three centuries. The American Medical Association shuttered its 55-year-old publication in 2013 due to declining revenues. Newspapers and other publications are closing down left and right in cities around America and the world. DowJones shuttered
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 6 SmartMoney Magazine due to declining revenues. The Washington Examiner closed up shop, as did the Boston Phoenix. The list goes on and on. It's not just publications that have to adapt. Journalists themselves are ﬁnding that their careers are changing rapidly; some are leaving the ﬁeld entirely, while others are becoming brand journalists. Corporations and brands have realized that they need to cultivate and nurture their own audiences, as traditional public relations efforts are becoming less impactful due to fewer traditional outlets. Brands are becoming the media, too.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 7 The New York Times recently lost 13-year veteran David Pogue to Yahoo. Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer, I think, put a large bundle of money on the table and said, “David, come write for us.” Brands are starting to recognize that new media has completely broken the old media models, and that's as much an opportunity as it is a threat. We have to treat everyone like the media, because everyone is the media. You are the media (or you should be). Your competitors are the media (or are in the process of becoming the media). Your brand may ﬁnd itself, if you don’t have a media outlet and audience of your own, in the peculiar situation of having to pitch your competitors who do have a media outlet and audience to get coverage. And what’s the likelihood your competitor will publish a glowing piece about you? Whether you want to be or not, you must become a publisher. This is the media landscape that public relations professionals now face: traditional sources for pitching are drying up, new sources are appearing all the time, and the number of sources are exploding exponentially in tandem with the number of media outlets. Social media and new media broke the traditional public relations model. In order to thrive, we all must adapt. Let's start looking at how.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 8 CHAPTER TWO Why PR Still Matters Lest you think that the public relations ﬁeld is as dead as the traditional media ﬁeld that spawned it, worry not. The principle and idea of public relations still matters a great deal. I've been a B2C, B2B and B2Everything marketer for almost two decades now, and marketing used to be a really easy thing. All we had to do was generate leads. That was our primary responsibility. Let's create leads, and from there, the leads that we created would be given to the sales team who would go out and sell stuff. If our company or our product was really good, we would create evangelists — people to help us with our marketing out of their love for the brand. This is how marketing has worked for decades, and how it still works today. As a marketer, I ran into a signiﬁcant problem over and over again in my career. This is what I call the marketer’s dilemma. I’ve always had sales teams that were absolutely ravenous for new leads. At my last job, the sales team wanted leads at an absurd volume. In one year, the demand for leads went from 1,000 leads per month, to 2,000 leads per month, to 3,000 leads per month in the span of one quarter! They needed more and more just to grow the business and power the smile-and-dial tactics. The problem I had as a marketer — the marketer’s dilemma — is that you can only squeeze your audience so much. There are only so many qualiﬁed leads in your existing audience to begin with; you can market and market, but if you're not growing your audience or constantly ﬁnding new audiences then the amount of impact you're going to have as a marketer or a communicator will diminish over time. Without new audiences, your effectiveness and your results will creep lower and lower because there's no one left who hasn't heard the pitch a dozen times. You reach the bottom of the barrel. On top of that, the whole idea of “build it and they will come” simply does not work in an environment where something new appearing all the time. Marketing channels like organic search deliver reliable results, but they can’t scale fast enough to meet demands similar to what I was facing. Other channels like e-mail marketing
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 9 are more like sales channels; you don't build signiﬁcant new audiences from e-mail so much as you market to the existing list you already have (with some incremental growth if you do a good job). Marketing channels like social media are excellent for preaching to the existing choir that you already have. They can absolutely grow your audience if you have something worth sharing, but they can't scale fast enough by themselves. This poses the ultimate challenge to us as marketers: where do we get new audiences from quickly, at scale, and in a reasonably cost-effective manner? Finding the answer to this question is one of the reasons why I began working at SHIFT Communications. The traditional answer for marketers was to simply buy new audiences. Drop a whole bunch of advertising budget and hope people pay attention. The unfortunate reality is that most marketers can't effectively generate new audiences, and for good reason: generating new audiences is not a marketer’s responsibility, nor is it their area of expertise. Marketing’s responsibility is lead generation. The responsibility for generating new audiences comes from media:
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 10 I often use the analogy of being a store owner trying to attract new business. The job of media, whether it’s public relations (earned) or advertising (paid), is to tell people that the store exists, to build trust and word-of-mouth so that people will come visit. Media gets people to the front door. Marketing’s job is to open the door to the store, invite people in and get them to discover things of interest to them. Marketing’s job is to make the offerings in the store appealing, to create a desire to own the products or services being sold. Once marketing has effectively created leads, the job of sales is to ring the register. This applies to all forms of industry and all sales environments, B2B or B2C. The process of getting people to buy a pack of gum, a jet airplane, or the services of a PR ﬁrm are not signiﬁcantly different because at the end of the day, a human being has to buy. This explains why marketers face so much difﬁculty in generating new audiences. It is exceptionally difﬁcult to perform all three roles effectively. If marketing focuses solely on getting people to raise their hands and say, ”I’m interested,” all of your scarce resources can be focused on that goal. Let advertising and public relations handle the process of generating new audiences through media, and let the sales team do the job of closing the deals. When you let each specialty work to its potential, two results should drastically improve. This is why public relations still matters.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 11 CHAPTER THREE The Changing Media Landscape We understand that social media broke traditional media and traditional public relations. We understand that public relations, conceptually, still matters. What we need to understand next is how to involve our understanding of what media is in order to take advantage of its power and full potential. Media is no longer discrete channels like television or social networks or radio. If it were simply about channels, there would be far fewer of them being created every day. You can't go a day without logging onto a site like Mashable or TechCrunch and seeing hundreds of new tools appearing, new services to try, and new publications starting up. Media is deﬁned less by the channel it appears on and more by what we do when we consume that channel. The three core media channels deﬁned by behavior are earned, owned, and paid media. Owned media is simple. It's any place you can talk about how awesome you are. This is your corporate website, your blog, your e-mail newsletter, your social media proﬁles — anything that you own or control. Owned media is by far the least expensive channel to operate, and it does help grow your audience through things like search engine optimization and organic search trafﬁc. Owned media does not scale particularly well because it is passive, dependent upon discovery through social and search channels. Owned media is exceptionally good at helping build loyalty if your content is any good. The second category of media is paid media. Paid media is equally simple to understand: it is any place that you rent to talk about how awesome you are. You are renting someone else's audience, from things as mundane as billboards and bus signs to things as complex as pay per click advertising. Every time you sponsor a post, promote a tweet, or buy ad space in someone else's newsletter, you're renting eyeballs. Paid media scales with budget in a linear fashion; the more you pay, the more access to audience you get. The third and ﬁnal category is earned media. Earned media is the most valuable
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 12 and trustworthy form of media because it's someone else talking about how awesome you are. In the traditional media days, earned media was simply getting placements in newspapers, on the radio, or on that valuable daytime TV talk show. Today, it has dramatically changed. Instead of just talking around the water cooler at work on Monday morning, people are sharing the things that they like on social media. A guest blog post can be just as inﬂuential as a bylined article. Every time you garner a re-tweet, a reshare or a +1, you are earning media. Word-of-mouth itself has gone viral and can now power your business like it never could before. This is the new media landscape. This is the environment in which your brand will either wither or thrive.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 13 CHAPTER FOUR Where Did Shared Media Go? One glaring omission from the previous chapter on media types is shared media. Where is it? The reality is “shared media” doesn't actually exist. This may seem like an unusual statement to make, given how prominent shared media is in all major PR publications, and even in our past e-books, but it is true. Shared media does not exist because shared media is intangible. Think about it for a second. You can take a piece of paid media in the form of your most recent ad copy and put it on a ﬂash drive. It is a tangible object that has intrinsic value and existence. You can take a piece of earned media in the form of an endorsement, a blog post about you written by someone else or a Facebook recommendation and place that on a ﬂash drive. You can take a piece of owned media such as your most recent newsletter, a blog post or the tweets you're sending on Twitter today and put that on a ﬂash drive as well. You can't do any of that with a share. You can't put a share on a ﬂash drive; you
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 14 can't print out a share. You can print out perhaps metrics about shares, or the existence of a share based on a report you’ve run, but the share itself is completely intangible. So if shared media is not tangible, if shared media does not exist, then what is it? Ultimately, shared media is a form of behavior. It is the process by which any piece of media becomes earned media. I can take your e-book and share it, and now it is earned media. I could take your advertisement and share it, and now it becomes earned media. We do this as a tradition every January when the Super Bowl rolls around. We share advertisements and paid media, good and bad, all the time. Other people can even reshare existing earned media, amplifying your message even more. Earned media is an endorsement, however weak or strong, and that is at the heart of its power. When I reshare your Facebook post, I am implicitly endorsing it. When I retweet you, I am implicitly validating that you said something valuable. When I talk or blog about your most recent advertisement (assuming that the blog post is positive), I am giving it credibility. The endorsement may not be strong, especially in the case of retweets or Facebook likes since they require minimal effort; however they are still endorsements, and they are still earned media.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 15 CHAPTER FIVE 3 Core Social Media Behaviors As important as sharing is for the generation of earned media, it is only one of three core behaviors that we are looking to elicit from our audiences in order to maximize impact of our social media efforts. Take a look at any social network’s major functions offered to its users. Here's an example from Twitter: We see the share function which is called retweet, but we also see reply and favorite. Reply allows you to engage by joining the conversation, and favorite allows you to save/vote for the tweet. Here's an example from Facebook:
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 16 Aside from the photo speciﬁc controls, there are three core options: like, comment, share. Like allows you to vote for the post and makes note of your interest within your own news feed. “Comment” allows you to engage in the conversation, and “share” allows the post to be transformed into earned media. Even the much maligned social network Google+ offers very familiar options. “+1” allows you to vote for the post, the forward button allows you to share it, and
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 17 you can of course add a comment and join the conversation. We can see from the similarities in the user interfaces that the three core behaviors we are looking to elicit from our audiences are voting behaviors, engagement behaviors, and sharing behaviors. As before, the media is deﬁned not by what it is, but by what we do with it. If we can get people to perform these behaviors, our social media efforts will be signiﬁcantly more successful and proﬁtable. That also means that we need to approach our social media calls to action with more diversity in mind. Instead of merely looking to elicit likes or retweets, we should be looking to drive all three core behaviors across all the social networks we work on. Beyond the surface metrics of community engagement, these behaviors also power other things. There are forms of engagement that exist outside the clickstream, such as people discussing and recommending you among friends in real life or at conferences and events, and people referencing you online in other areas like reviews. We cannot, as marketers, effectively track all of those interactions but it would be foolhardy to deny that they exist or that they have some impact on our audience generating efforts. There's one more area where these core behaviors are vital and important that is not immediately obvious: algorithms.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 18 CHAPTER SIX Why Social Media Behaviors Matter Let's talk about social media core behaviors and algorithms. Most modern forms of search, such as search engines powered by Google, Yahoo! and Facebook, have sophisticated algorithms with hundreds of ranking factors. In turn, these search algorithms provide the ability for new audiences to ﬁnd you. Many times, new audiences start with a search. Someone heads over to Google or Facebook and asks, “Where is a good place to eat around here?” or “searching for a coffee shop nearby”. The answer they get determines where their business - and their dollars - go. Until recently, the profession of search engine optimization (SEO) focused on the content. SEO experts spent years helping companies tune up their websites, optimizing content for the right keywords and phrases. They spent countless hours creating links and publishing a voluminous amount of stuff on the web. In the search arms race, search engines have been increasing the complexity of their algorithms to make it more difﬁcult for SEO experts to game the system so that people ﬁnd what they’re really looking for.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 19 In the past year alone, Google has released 26 updates to its anti-spam algorithm, Penguin, and seven updates to its fraud detection algorithm, Panda. Each update continued to devalue the owned content that webmasters and search experts had control over so that rankings were less subject to manipulation. Google has said repeatedly that they value the implicit endorsements that come from inbound links to some degree and have started to add social behaviors into their algorithms as another way of ﬁnding and ranking content. SearchMetrics.com recently conducted a regression analysis to determine what ranking factors correlated most strongly with top search rankings.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 20 Look closely at the top ranking factors. All of them are core social media behaviors: votes, engagements, and shares. These correlate more to search rankings than most of the activities we've been doing in the past three to ﬁve years. Search is evolving. What we do with the stuff is more important than the stuff itself, and eliciting those core social behaviors is a key part of our mission to deliver new audiences with our owned and earned media. That's not to say that great content is irrelevant; quite the contrary is true. Great content is what ultimately persuades people to share it. But great content by itself is not good enough. Just throwing it out there and hoping someone shares it is a terrible strategy. To make an analogy to a campﬁre: great content is the wood. A pile of wood will do you no good unless you need a place to sit. If you're looking to get warm or to cook some food, a pile of wood is not terribly helpful. You need to start a ﬁre, and that comes from a spark. Likewise, great content needs to have a spark to get it in front of the right people, and that comes from core social behaviors via organic search. Getting found these days is as much about who knows you as it is about what you've published. For example, if we’re both connected on Google+ and you type in a search query like “best PR ﬁrm in New York City”, your search results will be different than if we weren’t connected. Because I have shared and circled the content I’ve created for SHIFT Communications, the results you get in Google will
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 21 be more skewed in favor of SHIFT than if we weren’t connected. Our connection changes your reality. It changes what you see in what is effectively organic search retargeting. This is an incredibly powerful tool available to your brand. If you do a good job of cultivating inﬂuential members of your audience who have large audiences of their own, their audiences’ search results will change based on any of your content they reshare. The algorithms are based in this logic. There are three factors by which search algorithms rank content on the web: relevance, diversity, and timeliness. Each search engine has its own nicknames for these factors, but they all share common ground. Google calls relevance QDR, or Query Deserves Relevance while Facebook calls it Afﬁnity. On the content side, Google has the nickname QDD, or Query Deserves Diversity, and Facebook calls it Weight. Google calls timeliness QDF, or Query Deserves Freshness, while Facebook calls it Decay. When it comes to timeliness, search engines are validating you based on the frequency of your publication. How fresh is your content? How often do you post to social media? All other things being equal, the fresher the content, the better you will do in search. That's why having a blog and a social media strategy with a high frequency of distribution matters. If you publish twice a year, and you have a competitor publishes twice a day, your competitor will eat you for lunch in search results. What matters now is the types of content you publish and the diversity of that content. Google’s QDD algorithm looks for a variety of content types. Google wants to see local business listings. It wants you to have videos on YouTube and publish on social media platforms (preferably their own). Google wants you to use as many of its tools as you can, and they reward you for doing so with high search rankings. Facebook is no different. Facebook assigns different weights in its search algorithms to different types of content. It treats text updates, photos, videos, audio, and engagements differently. The more these you can acquire, the better you will rank in their Graph Search. If you've done any amount of social media work recently on Facebook, you've noticed that rich media types like pictures, audio and video tend to perform better than just straight text because they garner more of the core behaviors of votes, engagements, and shares. When it comes to relevance, the search algorithms want to make sure that your stuff is as relevant as possible to what the querant was asking. A portion of that algorithm, particularly on Facebook, is tied directly to the relevance of you to the asker. That relevance, in turn, is measured by the number of core social media behaviors that the querant has previously engaged with you.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 22 What do you have to control over? When it comes to all these factors, you have complete control over timeliness. You control how often you publish based on the resources you have available to you. You have complete control over the different media types that you publish. You can choose whether you want to do video, images, audio, or just straight text. Obviously, in order to be rewarded by the diversity algorithms, you'll want to make as much diverse content as your resources permit. The one area you do not have complete control over is relevance. You can suggest that people engage with you in the core behaviors we’ve identiﬁed of voting, engagement, and sharing, but you cannot make people do it. That's why the relevance portion of the algorithm is the most difﬁcult to tackle, and therefore the most rewarding if you get it right. With all the changes search algorithms have seen in the past year, the most important thing is to create media and content that satisﬁes the people in our audience and not the search algorithms. Behave as if the search engine is not there and though word-of-mouth is the only way to distribute your content. Create content that people would want to share — content that you would share if you didn't work for your company. That is and always has been the only long-term viable strategy for content creation. It is the only strategy that is relatively future- proof against algorithm changes yet to be unveiled. Playing to the algorithm is incredibly difﬁcult, and you can get burned really badly. Here is an example: about a year ago, Google said press releases shouldn’t count toward your search rankings. Companies have been, for years, stufﬁng press releases with links and keywords because press releases were distributed on high- value websites. Google adapted its algorithm to be able to detect this behavior, and in 2012, they announced that they were no longer going to allow search ranking value to be passed from releases. Nonetheless, SEO experts continued to publish press releases on behalf of companies on the premise that it didn't do any harm, even if it didn't necessarily do a lot of good. They were still getting the links out there, and occasionally a press release would be posted by another website, and they would get their inbound link. In late 2013, Google indicated that it was still seeing a lot of bad behavior from SEO experts when it came to loading press releases with garbage. They adapted their algorithm once more and began to penalize press releases that were stuffed with links. Instead just being unhelpful, press releases (including old ones from years past) could be actively harmful to a website’s search rankings. Suddenly, brands and companies had a lot of cleanup to do. Years of trying to play to the algorithm caught up with them in an instant.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 23 Create content that organically elicits the social media core behaviors of sharing, voting, and engagement. Create content that people actually want. Jay Baer, in his excellent book Youtility, describes this as ‘content so good, you would pay for it as a separate product.’ That is the gold standard you should look to achieve, and the only way to truly beat the search algorithms in the long run.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 24 CHAPTER SEVEN The Earned Media Hub Strategy All of this discussion sets the table for the question: how do you actually achieve the results that we are looking for as PR and marketing professionals? How do we get the core social media behaviors? How do we create sharing that transforms our earned, owned, and paid media? We do this by creating content that is relevant, timely and diverse, which satisﬁes both search algorithms and the wants of our audiences with what we call the Earned Media Hub Strategy. The Earned Media Hub Strategy is based on the premise that we want to generate as much earned media, including the core social media behaviors of voting, engaging, and sharing, as possible to grow our audience and reach exponentially. The Earned Media Hub Strategy begins with research. We research to determine what content is going to be most appealing to people. We look at services like Google Trends, Google+ Explore, trending topics on Twitter, and our own primary research to make those determinations.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 25 The second step is to ﬁgure out messaging. Messaging is more than just coming up with clever taglines. Messaging is about aligning the content you're going to create with the rules and guidelines of your brand, delicately balancing provocative with appropriate. There are a number of very prominent cases where someone has published something on social media that was provocative but ultimately damaging to the brand. Search anywhere online for “top social media fails” to see the good examples of this. The third step is to get creative. This is more than just design (though design is an absolutely essential part of the process). Creative also refers to coming up with new angles and ways of talking about a particular subject or topic to set you apart from the crowd. In any given news topic, there will be things that people are parroting mindlessly, and the reality is that you will not get the desired social behaviors if all you do is create reruns of other peoples’ reruns. Once you know the messaging and the creative angle, you create the content. That's where most marketers stop. They published their content and wait for the world ﬁnd it or make an effort to share it on their owned media channels and leave it at that. The Earned Media Hub Strategy extends your content by promoting it on all three behavioral channels: earned, owned, and paid. The ﬁnal step in the Earned Media Hub Strategy is the hand off to marketing of the audience and the analysis of what worked and what didn't. That analysis can help tweak the existing promotional efforts, or it can reboot the process entirely. The information and analytics you gain from a campaign can form the basis for new research for a new campaign. The Earned Media Hub Strategy can be difﬁcult to visualize in its entirety in the abstract. Let's look at a case study from beginning to end to see how this is implemented and executed.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 26 CHAPTER EIGHT Case Study: The Twitter IPO The process began with research. We needed to know what was being done already. In an investigation of all the existing stories about the IPO, most of the angles being taken were about the raw numbers of Twitter. How many active users were there? What was the best guess at a P/E ratio? What would be the initial share price? Which bank or banks would be managing the offering? What was the total valuation of Twitter?
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 27 We knew that focusing on the wrong numbers was just going to be reruns of other peoples’ reruns, and certainly nothing that would get the kind of course social media behaviors that we were looking for. Our research gave us the guidelines, the knowledge of what not to do. The second part of the process is messaging. We need to determine what channels we would pursue, what budgets we would work with, and how we would craft message to be consistent with our values. Since the piece of content was ultimately going to be a blog post versus something more ambitious like an infographic or video, we settled on a budget of $500. We would leverage our owned media channels, reach out to our “friendlies” for earned media, and rely mainly on sponsored posts and pay per click advertising for paid media. For our owned media properties, we looked at our existing web analytics to determine when we were receiving the most attention to any given property, from social media proﬁles to our blog. Your web analytics will tell you when the best
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 28 days and times are for each channel. From there, we put together a distribution strategy to reach as many of our audience members as possible on the channels of their choice. The most important part of the messaging process was the application of our core values. These are the values that we, as an organization, apply to everything we do. They set up the rules under which we operate and evaluate the appropriateness of content we create. Our seven core values are: creative, connected, dedicated, smart, honorable, positive, and ballsy. Our rule is that if a piece of content does not positively hit at least three of the values, or if it negatively hits any one of the values (meaning that it violates the value), we do not publish. This helps us avert preventable PR crises. One of our strongest recommendations for all forms of content marketing and public relations is that you take the time to write out a list of your own corporate core values and what they mean in a format that you can use as a checklist to validate your content. Write down the rules that you stand for and put them on a little business card or index card so that you can hand it to everyone in the organization from the CEO to the intern when they are posting on social media either on behalf of the company or on their own. (Ours are on our mouse pads)
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 29 After doing our research, we knew what channels we were going to approach, what budget we had to work with, and what we could and could not say based on our values. It was time to get creative. We ask ourselves, what hasn't already been talked about when it came to the Twitter IPO? What would the general public or investors be interested in? The answer was a question in itself: what where the longer-term growth prospects of potential investments they were looking to get involved with? We decided it was time to do a bit of digging, which illustrates that the Earned Media Hub Strategy is iterative. An idea can come up in the creative phase that needs more research or needs validation against the rules that have been set down. One of the things we did was to go to Twitter’s website and look at the job listings. If you want to get a sense of where a company is going, there is no better way than to look at what they are hiring for now. What they’re hiring for now is what they will be rolling out in 6 -12 months once they have a new staff members up to speed. We took it a step further and looked in the Wayback Machine to see where Twitter was 3, 6, and 12 months prior to the IPO based on what jobs they
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 30 had available during those dates. What positions were new? What positions got ﬁlled? The answers to those questions would give us an indicator of where Twitter was now and where it thought it still had growth opportunities. Twelve months ago, Twitter was trying to solve a lot of infrastructure problems based on the job openings that they had available. There were a lot of big data jobs, database administration jobs and programming jobs that revolved around processing and speed of execution. Those jobs disappeared about six months ago which indicates that their infrastructure itself is on a relatively ﬁrm ground. Six months ago, Twitter was trying to get its IOS offerings to be more robust as evidenced by the sheer number IOS engineering jobs that were available. They were able to hire for those relatively quickly, because they disappeared three months later. Just before the IPO, Twitter was hiring aggressively for Android developers, which indicates that they are looking to beef up their Android mobile application offering. As of the writing of this e-book, Twitter is rolling out aggressive numbers updates to both their IOS and Android applications on a regular basis, indicating they were able to make the hires they needed. If you know the market well as an investor, you would likely agree that a mobile-ﬁrst strategy is a solid one for Twitter to pursue. This would give you some level of reassurance that your investment was sound. In terms of job openings, the second area we noted a signiﬁcant amount of growth in just before the IPO was for natural language processing in the Arabic language. This indicates that they are going to the Middle East, trying to ﬁgure how to be a news source in the Middle East and perhaps trying to attract additional investment from the region. Again, if you believe that the Middle East is an area that
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 31 is right for disruption by social media, then this would provide additional reassurance that Twitter’s strategy was on track. We had the research, we had the messaging, and we had the creative ideas. It was time to create the content. When it comes to content creation, in addition to our core values, we have what is called the 3L rule of good content. Great content should do one or more of three things: Great content should make you laugh. If, in the process of creating content or in the process of evaluating the ﬁnal product content you are laughing, then the content is entertaining and good. Great content should make you learn something. As you create content, you should be learning something new that you did not know before. After all, as the subject matter expert in your industry or niche, if you are not learning something, your audience certainly is not. Great content should make you love it. If your content is truly great, you’re talking about it to your friends, family, signiﬁcant other, and pets unsolicited, perhaps even in your sleep. You love it that much. If your content doesn't meet at least one of these three conditions, chances are it's bad. Don't publish it. It will not get shared. It will not get voted upon, and it certainly will not be engaged with. It will simply wither in obscurity. We recommend that you put the 3L test on a separate index card and hand it to all of your marketing and public relations staff to validate any content they are going to put out. As we were putting together the Twitter IPO blog post, we checked ourselves. Did we laugh? No. Did we learn something? Absolutely! We learned a ton about what was driving Twitter and what their hiring needs were. Did we love it? Enough that we talked about it on our own personal proﬁles when it came out. We passed two of the three rules in the 3L test. We had a trafﬁc blog post that was published. The world should beat a path to our door, right? Not quite. We had to help it by engaging our media. The easy win, the low hanging fruit, is our own media properties, and that's where we started. Since it was already a blog post, there was not much point in publishing an additional blog post about it, but we did set up a social media distribution strategy for our owned media properties to prominently feature it over a few days before the IPO, based on the information we found during our research and
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 32 messaging phases. During the promotion period, we made sure to send out a newsletter prominently featuring the blog post to reach our subscribers. Your e-mail list is one of the best tools available for reaching your existing audience and encouraging them to engage in the core social media behaviors. It is, without question, one of the best owned media properties you have, so make sure it is part of any content distribution strategy for owned media. We also placed a promotional headline on the front page of our website and featured it in native, non-paid advertisements on our own properties. One of the secrets of content distribution across owned media channels is that efforts should be nearly synchronous; the ideal is to push as hard as possible on all of your channels all at once so that audience members see the featured content in as many places as possible. Bear in mind that people consume information at highly diverse, distributed locations. Someone following you on Twitter may not read your e-mail newsletter. Someone who is a fan of your page on Facebook may not pay any attention to you on LinkedIn. Hit all of your own media channels at once to be sure to attract as much attention as possible at the same time, then reap the value of the synergy of people sharing all at the same time. The ﬂag was planted for owned media. The next step was to get some earned media. When it comes to earned media, it is absolutely essential to understand the audience that you already have. Who in your audience is a fan? Who is a superfan? Who are the people who are sympathetic to your brand and would be willing to vote, engage, or share relevant news? Knowing who these people are in advance of the campaign will make launching an earned media initiative much easier. From our past experience and a prior analysis of our social media following, we were able to reach out to inﬂuencers sympathetic to our brand and share with them the news about the Twitter IPO blog post. Many of them agreed to share it, as it was of interest to them as well. This created a public record of interest in what we were talking about. Once we covered the easy outreach, it was time to step up our game. Because we had chosen a topic that was timely, many reporters were looking for additional angles in the Twitter IPO story. We proactively and reactively pitched our Twitter IPO blog post to the media using our contact lists as well HelpAReporter.com. Because it was a fresh, unique angle, we received positive feedback from reporters; almost immediately, we got a hit in Digiday, a prominent online marketing publication. Because of the timeliness of the topic, the hit was nearly synchronous with our owned media efforts.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 33 If you are working with a PR agency or you have a great in-house team, make sure that your content is provided to your media contacts as soon as possible, so that those stories can hit on the same day or close to it. If you have a terriﬁc relationship with a particularly inﬂuential outlet that you can grant an exclusive to, rearrange the rest of your publication schedule for owned and paid media to coincide with the massive earned media hit. The third leg of the Earned Media Hub Strategy is paid media. We looked at how to promote our content on our owned media sites as well as the earned media
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 34 endorsements we had already garnered to extend the life of the attention we were getting. The ﬁrst stop and the most logical starting place was Twitter. After all, the entire story was about the Twitter IPO. We took out Promoted Tweet advertisements that featured tweets about the blog post for a total of $200, on the premise that Twitter users would want to talk about their social network of choice, targeting people who were also talking about the Twitter IPO, as well the retweets we had earned from our earned media outreach. We looked to other social networks like Facebook, where we took out a promoted post for $100 to promote the article. Rather than simply target our existing audience (the most common use case for promoted posts), we opted for expanded demographic targeting, promoting the posts to other marketing, public relations, and social media professionals.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 35 We approach LinkedIn with a different strategy, since LinkedIn advertisements are typically exceptionally expensive for standard pay per click marketing. Rather than target the general public or the subset of marketing and PR professionals, we opted to target the journalists who were covering the Twitter IPO to encourage them to share our post, which helped us contain our costs to $100. Our last paid advertisement platform was Google AdWords. AdWords is particularly good at getting eyeballs on your brand, especially with the Google
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 36 Display Network. What many don’t know about AdWords is that you don't need to spend a fortune in order to beneﬁt from them. We set up a campaign to target people who were searching for the Twitter IPO in the news or reading about it on popular ﬁnancial investment sites with a $100 ad budget. With these advertisements, we fulﬁlled the Earned Media Hub Strategy. Before we reveal our results, one of the most important things to be aware of is how this strategy breaks. The Earned Media Hub Strategy works exceptionally well when paid, earned, and owned media are coordinated. The Earned Media Hub Strategy breaks down rapidly and spectacularly when organizational silos and internal politics keep the channels separate and invisible to each other. If your PR agency, for example, is not talking to your marketing department, then your earned media and your owned media are likely telling different stories and sharing different messages. If your ad agency isn't talking to your PR agency, then they can’t maximize your ad dollars to tell the same story; at worst, they are working at odds with you and could be creating a PR disaster. One of the greatest earned social media successes in recent times is the story of the Oreo campaign, Dunk in the Dark, which occurred during the 2013 Super Bowl. Though much analysis has been done of the campaign, the root of the success was that both Oreo and its agency were sitting next to each other during the game. The approval process was immediate, and no inter-organizational politics prohibited fast reaction. That lack of friction is what will make the Earned Media Hub Strategy work for you. So how did we do? Now that we have detailed the process from beginning to end, let's take a look at the results. Bear in mind, the key performance indicators we are looking for are audience participation in the three social media core behaviors and the objective goal is new audience acquired that can then participate in our marketing in a more substantial way further down the funnel. Did we get voting behavior? Did we get engagement? Did people share? On Twitter, we hit 150 retweets almost immediately from our earned media outreach to our friendly inﬂuencers.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 37 In addition to the 150 retweets achieved through earned media, we also reached 73,000 new people to our paid campaign, of which 991 came to read our post. When it came to Facebook, we reached 62,800 new people, and got 203 of them to read our post.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 38 Even with a very narrow scope, we got our LinkedIn post in front of 17,500 other people, including engagement from a prominent ﬁnancial industry reporter.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 39 3,500 people saw our Twitter IPO blog post on Google AdWords, and 30 of them stopped by to read it.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 40 By far the most important metric is new audience acquisition. That's what PR and earned media is supposed to generate. Did we get any new audience out of all of these efforts? One look at the number of subscribers to our e-mail newsletter from this campaign tells us everything we need to know about its success: We were able to add almost 500 subscribers during the campaign time within the month of November, a marked increase or our normal e-mail subscription rate. People saw the post in the media and in their social networks, came to the website, read it, and signed up for our newsletter. The Earned Media Hub Strategy delivered.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 41 CHAPTER NINE Conclusion Our testing of the Earned Media Hub Strategy gave us 3 core takeaways that we want to share with you. First and foremost, using the Earned Media Hub Strategy will help extend the life of your content. Assuming that you have good content that is worth sharing, take the time and a reasonable budget, combined with our strategy, to make the content work harder for you. In this particular case study, we spent a grand total of only $500. When you work out the numbers, that's basically one dollar per new subscriber to our mailing list. If you have any experience in the B2B marketing world, you know that $1/cost per acquisition is exceptionally low. Don't let your content linger out there unloved! Use the Earned Media Hub Strategy to get in front of the right audiences in order to grow your business. The second major take away is that search, social media, traditional media, and public relations are converging rapidly. We see that search is incorporating social signals to some degree in search algorithms, and if we follow the rules for creating content that encourages the three core social behaviors, we will serve both our audiences and the search engines well. Plan accordingly! Build voting, engagement, and sharing into your content marketing plans from the very beginning as opposed to being an afterthought. Finally and most importantly, recognize that the stuff – content – and what people do with it are equally important. Leave the mindset of “Content is King” behind. Content is only part of the equation. If you're creating stuff for the sake of creating stuff and you don't have a plan for proactively putting it in front of audiences, you will be expending a lot of resources for meager returns. We hope this detailed walk-through of the Earned Media Hub Strategy has given you some ideas for your own content distribution strategy and for how to leverage the power of earned, owned, and paid media to build new audiences for growing your business.
Penn / HOW SOCIAL BROKE PR / 42 Get More PR and Communications Insights! Want to keep on learning about public relations, communications, and how they can beneﬁt your company? Subscribe for free to SHIFT Happens, the weekly email newsletter from SHIFT Communications that wraps up what you should know each Wednesday. It’s completely free and will help you learn better how to leverage all of the earned media you’re getting. Click here to subscribe to SHIFT Happens: http://www.shiftcomm.com/about-shift/news/subscribe-to-shift-happens/ Blatant Sales Pitch We would be remiss if we didn’t say that if all of this feels overwhelming, we’re happy to help. Engage our services for your marketing and earned media needs and we’ll show you how your company and brand can shine, get attention from the audiences that will beneﬁt you most, and drive bottom-line results in a measurable way. Click here to contact us and engage our services: http://www.shiftcomm.com/contact/ Blatant Social Panhandling If you liked this guide, please share it on the social network of your choice! Be sure to also follow SHIFT Communications on these channels: Twitter: http://www.shiftcomm.com/t Facebook: http://www.shiftcomm.com/f LinkedIn: http://www.shiftcomm.com/l Google+: http://www.shiftcomm.com/g About SHIFT Communications SHIFT is an integrated communications agency with ofﬁces in Boston, NYC and San Francisco, composed of over 100 creative, smart, and sassy brainiacs. We help ﬁnd, build, and convert the new audiences you need to drive business growth for consumer, technology and media companies, ranging from edgy startups to established brands.
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