Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Finding my Voice

Why is it so hard to find a voice online? With a seemingly infinite number of blogs about public relations, marketing, social media, and the future of the web it may be a bit of an understatement to say that I'm struggling to find my angle. Who am I and what do I have to contribute to the vast world of social media? After a 4 months of posting, I have little more to show than a few boring observations about work a a list of 'things I love about PR'. No direction, no theme, no real voice. And what kills me about it all is that I love to write. Blogging should be easier than this, shouldn't it?

What I've created is an a random collection of forced thoughts about an industry that I know little about. And maybe that's the essence of the problem. I spend my days reading blogs from PR pros who speak, so naturally about the things that they know best -- the fabulous world of PR. And so when I sit down to write I try to do the same thing. But there's a problem: I know so little about the industry. I'm just so new. And what I do know is boring as all heck. So what does that leave me with? A boring blog that even I don't want to read.

But maybe I'm not alone. How long does it take an author to find their voice? Maybe it's unfair to expect a first blog to be a perfect blog. Maybe I just have to work my way through this and figure out what works for me. Write what I know. Use the gurus as a guide but not as the answer. Don't worry so much about what other people are going to say about it.

And just keep writing.

If you're reading, bear with me for a few more months. I can hear someone down deep inside me trying to talk... She just hasn't quite figured a way onto the screen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sites that keep you comin back for more

Quick! Answer! Don't think: What are the first 3 websites you check everyday? What 3 keep you checking all day long?

Everyone who sits in front of a computer for 40+ hours a week has a go-to list, whether they know it or not. It's your homepage. Or your bookmarks. Or the urls you could receipt in your sleep. But why do you like them so much? What makes you go back?

My top sites, all fit into at least one of the following three categories--1. constantly updated, 2. interactive, 3. topical--while the best sites fit comfortably into all three. It's these qualities that make them more (continually) readable than the 1000+ more I encounter every week.

My homepage is the Boston Globe. I check it at least 10 times a day and 'use it' (comment on articles, take surveys) a few times a week. Aside from the obvious reasons that check it (local news, blah) I love the interactive features they offer. Once I've gotten through most of the headlines and I'm just looking for a way to kill a few spare minutes, I'll flip through one of their photo books that ranks things like 'Top 10 things to do in Boston this Fall' and 'Most famous bromances'. The depth of the site and happy mix of news and fun articles keep me coming back day after day.

At lunch I read Perez Hilton. This one's probably self-explanatory, but the juicy goss and layout -- brimming with pics and videos, gives my brain a break while I eat. And props to Perez to keeping the posts coming. I saw an interview he gave where he reported to blog 14 hours a day. 14 hours! I'm lucky if I'm on blogger twice a week.

I check facebook about 5 times a day. Once when I wake up, once before bed and a few times in between. What I love about facebook is that you never know what you're going to find. Posts are constant though never regular and there's always a new avenue of distraction to wander down. I maintain two facebook accounts though I rarely check or update my professional one.

Finally, my Netvibes page is open all day long. This may be a bit of a 'cheat entry' it could count for 100s opf pages but it should be mentioned nonetheless. My netvibes pages are divided into personal, PR, work, and fun -- PR being my favorite of the lot. (For a list of my favorite PR blogs, see my March post). Netvibes takes everything I want, and need to read and puts it onto one simple, easily readable page. And like all good aggragaters, it lets you customize the page to your own style. (mine is light blue)

So what sites keep you reading?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Movie in the Park/PR Events

Last week I went to a free movie in park sponsored by Trip Advisor (which I may refer to as TA throughout this post). While I went because I figured that it would be a fun free event -- the type that I always see but never go to -- for a brief moment it got me thinking about work too. While a friend and I were talking shop, I pointed out how much of a great PR campaign it was.

I explained that while many people think of public relations as press releases and media announcements -- all the old formal stuff -- there's a whole lot more to successful PR than just making necessary announcements. PR pros give themselves reasons to make announcements. They plan events, host parties and give out awards, all to remind people what brand they're serving.

A perfect example of this is Trip Advisor's movie in the park. Trip Advisor is an online resource that (I would guess) gets most of its advertising through online resources and the existing popularity of the site. The size and high activity of their pages make TA hugely attractive to Google, meaning that they have a consistently high search rating for the exact thing that they provide to the public. Essentially, the size and quality and amount of information on their site makes makes it easy to find, which contributes to the size and quality/amount of information...

But what happens when Trip Advisor execs want to generate a 'buzz' about the site in non-online areas. There's no obvious excuse for a PR campaign -- as far as I know, the product hasn't changed and they're not coming out with anything new. But perhaps too many people are finding the site through random searches and not enough are going straight to TripAdvisor.com. They want to increase brand awareness. How can this be done?

One option is doing what Trip Advisor did: 'sponsor' a community event that appeals directly to your target audience. The easy appeal of a free summer movie in the park was a great way to draw people in and then advertise their brand without boring or 'turning off' their potential users with traditional ads. By giving their audience something for free they created a positive association with their brand so that the next time one of these people decides to look online they may just think 'what was that site?... Trip Advisor... that was a fun movie... I like that brand" Everyone likes free stuff, and if you give something away and still slip in some brand advertising, then you're well on your way to a good PR campaign.

And Trip Advisor's event was a success, I think. The overhead, I would imagine, was fairly low, the turnout was high, and people had a great time. The audience left happy with their belly's full of free pop corn and a Trip Advisor hat on their head. (A hat that they'll either wear around the city (free advertising) or throw in the corner of their house and glance at from time to time (branding) both of which will, in theory generate more hits to their site.)

Will I go directly to Trip Advisor's site the next time I'm planning a trip or getaway? I'm not sure. Will I remember their site when I'm Googleing hotel reviews? Most likely.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

eNewsletter Takes Off

I've worked, over the past few months, on rebooting the company email campaign. Prior to the reboot, we were sending out too many emails and not enough meaningful content. Our members were losing faith in our product and no longer wanted to hear what we were saying. The restructure planned followed two main philosophies:

1. provide content - give readers a reason to read. while we wanted to keep pushing our products, we needed to give them a reason to interact with us as well.

2. be reliable - establish a time frame of when emails go out and plan ahead to make sure there's enough time/opportunity to publicize all events.

3. follow through - make sure that we're doing the things that we tell people we're going to do. give our audience a reason to believe in our 'product' again.

So far things have worked out great. The first email went off on time and we saw a great return: 17% open rate and 29%(!) ctr. That's a huge jump from where we'd been in the past and from what I can tell, some pretty solid number as email marketing goes.

Take two. Our second email went out as planned but hasn't had the same response. This time we only had 13% opens and 17% ctr. How to account for the big change? The email went out three hours later than the last one. There weren't as many links. The bulk of the content was different, though some was the same. Would all those factors decrease the numbers that much?

It's all trial and error with a new campaign. We'll play with the details a bit before next month's edition and see where that puts us. Hopefully after 6 or so we should have a more solid sense of what our readers want to get, when they want to get it, and what will make them read on.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Conversation Prism

Social Media. The next frontier of public relations. Er... The current frontier of public relations. Or, perhaps, the biggest part of public relations that pr pros are still trying to tackle. Brian Solis and JESS3 came up with this diagram that maps out social media: The Conversation Prism. A great resource for anyone looking to expand their social media positioning or checking how they stand.

Just when I thought I was starting to get it, this post shows me just how much I'm missing. And the big question remains: how to put it all together? If I'm on facebook and myspace 5x/day, updateing twitter every afternoon and evening, listening to pandora at work, getting google alerts first thing every morning, and using yahoo groups to organize my outside endeavors... where (and how!?) does it come together?

It would be impossible, (and futile), to utilize all of the tools available. This 'map' is a helpful visual in dividing them all up so you can not just what tools your using, but what 'color' tools you're hitting the most. My prism has a ton of blue and a smattering of red and green, but not much orange or yellow. It would seem to me that balance is the key, rather than total domination of one area but what a task finding the right colors and making sure they're all working together...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Help a Reporter

I came across this great resource while looking for PR resources on Facebook. Help a Reporter Out sends daily emails with queries and story ideas from reporters. It's completely hit or miss, but, I imagine, when it's 'hit' it's a quick and easy way to get your company in print.

So how does it work? It's a service much like that other one that connects PR people and journalists looking for sources, but this one is free. It used to be on Facebook, but grew too large for it. Once you subscribe, you receive about three (sometimes two, no more than four, ever) emails a day with reporter, editor and freelance writer queries, written so you can quickly and easily scan the topics for relevance.

If the topics do not apply to you or your clients, just hit delete. If they do, you may contact the reporter or editor directly, as instructed.

Note that Peter Shankman, the list facilitator, is very strict about helping out these reporters. Respond only if your information (or your client's info) is relevant and on target. If not, and you send non-relevant emails more than once, you'll get bumped off the list. Quickly. He's a big believer in good Karma, and he's also quite funny, and tends to also include a link to a fun site, or a funny story about his day in the emails. It's a nice refreshing change from the boring, non-funny emails we usually deal with.

Reporters can post queries at www.helpareporter.com/press, and sources can sign up at www.helpareporter.com - As I said, it's free. Peter asks that if you find it useful, then you make a donation to any animal rescue charity or animal hospital.

You can forward the queries to others who are a fit, but do not post any queries (or the editor/reporter contact info) on any blogs or public websites. I received permission from Peter to post this, since this is a private group and I'm helping to spread the word to both subscribers and media to sign up.

www.helpareporter.com - The more people who use it, the better it becomes.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Finding Blogs, cont.

A perfect compliment to the last post, I just found this article on finding the best blogs in a given field. (Thanks, unSpun). It's worth a read.