March 2014

CommentWe do both positive, proactive PR and issues and crisis communication here at AHA. And for these two very different sides of communication, there are many similarities in how we approach them.

One key element for both proactive PR and issues and crisis communication is to pay close attention to the response that is created from the announcement, information or campaign.

Traditional media coverage often provides the opportunity for the community to weigh in, to provide comments online and, sometimes, to vote on a survey. And, of course, Facebook and Twitter provide a great deal of insight into how people are feeling. For an issue or crisis, critical information can be found in the comments.

It is also important to watch when the news being shared is positive. Sometimes, when it comes to comments, no news is good news – but if you have just launched a product or service to consumers and there is no “buzz” about it in the comments or on social media, there should be a concern that no one but you cares.

For both positive news and issues and crisis response, looking at the comments lets you understand the needs and expectations of the public. You may have to wade through a few haters (those people who comment on anything and everything and always have something negative to say), but it’s worth your time. You can get insights that you couldn’t have received in real time before news became more interactive with social media.

Don’t just read the coverage; read the comments. Follow the social media updates and see how they are being shared. There is a wealth of information out there and it’s all available to you.

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http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-media-word-hook-written-tag-caught-blue-background-image30580237We all know that media relations and publicity are an important component of public relations. Prior to social media, these areas were at the heart of many campaigns. Getting an unbiased third party (a journalist) to speak positively about your organization, its services or products was crucial. Many, many hours of my PR career have been spent defining a good story pitch, specific to the media outlet we wanted to “earn” coverage in.

Fast forward to today. While media relations and publicity are still important, there are more opportunities where public relations professionals should be involved. These days, the range includes earned (editorial media coverage), paid (advertising and marketing) and owned (channels and content that you produce and share) media.

Earned media is one component of connecting with stakeholder groups and a very important part of most organizations’ communications strategies.

On the paid media side, it’s vital to realize that advertising has changed drastically. Think about some of the ads and marketing campaigns you see now. First of all, quite often the ads have a media relations or publicity component to them that outlines their creativity and shares results. Many ads or marketing campaigns also have an interactive component, asking the target market to participate in some way (create a new flavour of potato chips, for example). Some of the commercials we see on television that are shared on Facebook and other social media networks, tell a story (like a mini-movie) that doesn’t just inform us of the product or service benefits, but also engages our emotions. It isn’t just about informing you of a product anymore – it’s about creating a feeling.

Owned media falls into the area of brand journalism, where you produce content that is shared through your own distribution channels (website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) that you hope will be shared by your followers. This is a growing area and one we are seeing more and more organizations choosing to focus on. With a solid editorial approach, creating great content means you have to think like a producer. Here you can build strong relationships with your community that are supported by earned and paid media. It has to be about creating engaging content, and can’t been seen as “selling” anyone on anything.

It’s an exciting time to be a communicator when you understand all of the opportunities we have for authentically engaging and connecting with stakeholders.

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video cameraBrand journalism has been around for a while now. Here at AHA, we’ve been using brand journalism to tell our clients’ stories for several years. As a communications tool, it does seem to be gaining traction. Which is a very good thing.

The Public Relations Society of America listed brand journalism as one of the top 12 trends in PR for 2012 and it was included in sessions in 2011 at SXSW. (I think, like here at AHA, this may have been a little ahead of the curve. We’ve been watching the use of brand journalism for quite some time and it is just starting to emerge as a key communications tool.)

The core of brand journalism is storytelling – and when it comes to marketing, we know that good content is king. Brand journalism is an approach that provides brands with the opportunity to tell their story in the context of their industry, area of specialization or field. It can’t be marketing or advertising content – although it can link to those areas on a website. It has to have an editorial approach, which means providing balanced coverage. This demands a paradigm shift for some who are so used to selling, promoting or marketing that they don’t quite understand how to do this.

In our initial brand journalism planning meetings with clients, we spend a fair amount of time discussing this area and outlining the necessary steps to move into an editorial-focused, brand journalism strategy for content. It’s always exciting to see them “get it” – even more exciting when we review web stats a month or two after they have begun sharing stories through their brand journalism approach and they see the increase in readership, shares and engagement.

I was fortunate that my first career was in journalism. I learned the art and craft of storytelling and journalistic integrity from some of the best journalists in the country. Brand journalism allows an organization to tell its stories in a compelling, engaging and authentic manner. While it might feel like it takes a leap of faith to shift into this type of storytelling, there are so many rewards.

A great example of brand journalism is being done by Alabama Gulf Seafood. Take a look. It will give you some great ideas on how you can use brand journalism to tell your organization’s story.

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