Archive for April, 2008

Guide to SEO-Friendly News Releases: Download It Today!

SEO Tips for Press Releases - SHIFTWhether or not you choose to put out a Social Media Release, I am quite sure that you want your news to rank well within Google. 

In today’s search-centric culture, if you don’t show up on the first or second page of results, it is almost like not being online at all.  As Kami Huyse and Geoff Livingston noted during their recent NewComm Forum session, “The 1st page of results on Google may as well be your company’s homepage.”

That’s where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) principles come into play.

While the SHIFT team has always tried to stay abreast of SEO techniques for publishing client news, like most agencies we wound up with a few in-house experts.  It was high time we shared the wealth more broadly internally – and more broadly still, with our fellows in the PR industry.

So here’s the latest PDF from SHIFT Communications, for your copyright-free use.  A handy guide to SEO for press releases

This knowledge was collected and collated from across our internal experts, with additional tips provided by both our friends at the wire services and an outside SEO consultant or two.  However, SEO is a complicated business, so, Your Mileage May Vary.

Like the brilliant David Armano of Logic + Emotion, and the inimitable Chris Brogan, I often wonder if I’m giving enough back to the community.  So I truly hope you find this stuff useful.  (And hey, before ya go, if you do get some value from PR-Squared, don’t forget to subscribe!)  Thanks!

Get Into Twitter or Get Outta Public Relations?

TwitterersLast Monday (4/21), the inimitable Sam Whitmore of MediaSurvey published this handy list of Old- and New-School media types who are active on Twitter. 

I’ll re-publish a condensed version of Sam’s list below, but first want to pontificate on the shocking headline of this post: am I seriously suggesting that a PR person MUST become an active Twitter user if they want to have a meaningful career?  Even though Twitter is supposedly still a below-the-radar service?

Well, yea, kinda.  But for more – and more varied – reasons than you might think.

First: personal branding.  There is no question that the managers and HR reps at savvy PR agencies and corporations are in the twitterstream.  We have hired more than one new employee that we either recurited via Twitter, or, who had a leg-up in the process because we knew and respected the way they handled themselves online.

Next: knowledge.  If you’re “following” and interacting with a bunch of smart people, you will learn more stuff; you will be “in the know” before peers, competitors, and clients.  You’ll get first dibs on the coolest Web 2.0 applications.  While your friends wonder about “that tweety stuff” you’ll already be twhirling and utterzing: this isn’t just cool-for-cool’s sake – these are the apps that will be discussed in the History Books of this era.  Five years from now, you won’t be able to hold your head up in a newbiz meeting if you can’t claim to have been on-board from the get-go.

Also on the “knowledge” front: with your personal community established, I can’t emphasize enough how valuable Twitter can be when you need a hand – an idea – or, reactions to an idea.  Twitter is an instant focus group, on-call 24/7, and comprised of some of the most brilliant and thoughtful people you’d ever want to meet.

Last but not least: relationships.  Take a look at the list below.  Twitter may not be mainstream, yet, but it’s well-known to the influencers and fellow practitioners with whom most PR people interact.  Why wouldn’t you want to know what Marshall Kirkpatrick or Harry McCracken are up to today?  Thanks to Twitter, you might know anything from “what they had for breakfast” to “how PR pros screw up” to “what article they’re writing.”  With such knowledge, you will become a better PR pro, period.

Please note that I am NOT saying, “You can use Twitter to stalk the media!”  No, no, no!  I am saying you just might be able to forge a true relationship with these folks by interacting with them regularly, and in a purely social, “human” way. 

If you want to keep track of our own twitterati, we’ve consolidated SHIFT’s twitterfeed using Yahoo Pipes.  Check it out: over time you’d see that, yes, we interact with media contacts on Twitter – we’ll even throw out a “twitpitch” now and again – but, we also act like undercaffeinated goofballs a lot, too.  (Cuz we’re human, and that’s finally cool again.) 

Note: The ## after each name represents the number of “followers” each person had, at the time of the informal survey.

New-Schoolers
Victoria Belmont 14147
Pete Cashmore 6073
Marshall Kirkpatrick 2670
Ryan Block 2220
Amanda Congdon 1278
Mathew Ingram 937
Peter Rojas 644
James Kendrick 372
Dave Slusher 366
Natali del Conte 130 

Old-Schoolers
Stewart Alsop 321
Harry McCracken 195
Saul Hansell 82
Lance Ulanoff 35
David Lidsky 25
John Markoff 16 (updates protected)

New Old-Schoolers
John Dvorak 6357
Molly Wood 4710
Tom Merritt 3686
Leo Laporte 3045
Sarah Lacy 2308
Jim Louderback 762
Steve Baker 293
Heather Green 202
Owen Thomas 113

Living Legends
Kevin Rose 15738
Dave Winer 8084
Tantek Celik 3778
Om Malik 2401
Jimmy Wales 1835
Mary Hodder 1803
Kara Swisher 403
Henry Blodget 129

Gillmor Gang
Jason Calacanis 21224
Robert Scoble 20090
Mike Arrington 13777
Hugh MacLeod 5276
Steve Gillmor 1735
Gabe Rivera 1303
Doc Searls 768
Dan Farber 704
Marc Canter 632
Sam Whitmore 200
Dana Gardner 192
Robert W. Anderson 86

In the Social Media era, getting better at Public Relations means getting better at the Relationships, not the Publicity.  Use a list like this one to start the process – and get back to me a year from now about how it’s helped!

Start Small to Think Big?

IStock_000005697028XSmallToday Phil Gomes of Edelman blogged about the misguided priorities of the attendees at last week’s NewComm Forum.  Phil suggested that the attendees were too focused on the tools, at the expense of time spent pondering Big Picture issues like Net Neutrality and the globalization of the Web.

He’s right, as usual, but in the Comments of his post I tried to leaven the frustration with some additional perspective.

I think that for many of the NewComm attendees, “Social Media” is, by itself, a Big Picture issue.  Although to the PRESENTERS at the Forum, Social Media is still exciting – but somewhat “old hat” – to the ATTENDEES it’s still all too scary, new, and just plain weird.

Thus I think that Maggie Fox and I were able to hold court to a full house in our heated debate on the Social Media Release (SMR) because it represents a tactical, tactile way for newbies to “get started” on the Social Media trail.

“Think about it: the SMR may be tactical (it is!), but it also forces marketers to think about new constituents, new ways to reach those constituents, and thus, forces a change in thinking all the way to the strategy level.

“(The SMR represents) a bottom-up approach (to getting started)… which, kinda-sorta, is what Social Media is all about?”

Not sure that I know the answer to Phil’s justifiable complaint, but this idea of “starting small” in order to “think big” may be part of it?

(NewComm Forum was great, by the way – as Phil also attested in his post.  In addition to having an all-too-rare chance to say hello to folks like Shel Israel, Shel Holtz, KD Paine, Mike Manuel, Geoff Livingston, Kami Huyse, Brian Solis and David Parmet – and his adorable daughter – I also got to meet some awesome folks for the first time, like Chris Brogan, NewMediaJim of NBC, Richard Binhammer of Dell, Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy, even the Queen of Spain! etc., etc.  That’s not intended as linkbait, by the way, but rather to encourage you to check out some awesome people.  High quality all around.)

Social Media Release Template, version 1.5

SMR 1.5I didn’t think I would ever do this; the original Social Media Release (SMR) template took on a life of its own and I assumed that beyond evangelizing for the format, my “creative” work was done. 

But, as I’ve been awestruck by the adoption of the first template by some Big Brands, gratified by the response of the wire services, and energized by the many debates surrounding the SMR, I’ve learned some lessons that could inspire a fresh look at the original version.

Version 1.5 of the Social Media Release (download it here) has several purposes:

To further atomize the content: note that each of the substantive chunks of content (e.g., the core news, the different multimedia elements) are now shareable on an individual basis, empowering people to borrow liberally from its diverse content, for their own purposes.  You like the SMR’s embedded video; you want to embed it on your own blog, but feel no compunction to link to the SMR as the original source?  You want to cite the “core news” without the multimedia sizzle?  Now you can.  Slice & dice, splice & remix.  The newsmaker’s content becomes yours to play with however you like. 

To highlight the importance of engagement:  note that Version 1.5 includes a permalink to the newsmaker’s online newsroom, which should be powered by a blogging engine to enable moderated comments and trackbacks.  While a handful of wire services either already enable comments (or plan to), honestly the best place for folks to discuss the news is at the newsmaker’s own site, which is not only an “official” spot for conversation but also serves to aggregate any directly-related posts via the trackbacks/pingbacks (a.k.a. “blogs that link to this news”).

To emphasize flexibility:  perhaps the biggest complaint about Version 1.0 of the SMR was the suggested use of bulleted text, versus the traditional narrative format of traditional releases … while I still prefer bullets, it’s totally fine to stick with the narrative approach if you can incorporate the much-more-important components of interaction and shareable media.  Remember, this is merely a template: discard any elements that don’t work for you!

To account for technology changes:  the universal “Share This” widget (many variations exist) are great ways to allow end-users to post/share information in their preferred format.  In addition, since the publication of Version 1.0, we’ve seen services like Twitter and Facebook make a big impact on the social networking scene.  While such socnet stars are only beginning to achieve true mainstream adoption, it’s cool to envision a day when we could not only read an executive spokesperson’s official quote, but also have the option of following them via their twitterstream or personal blog. 

Additionally, the inclusion of an OPML feed allows the reader to instantly subscribe to all of a company’s official blogs.  (Per the Blog Council: “What do you do when hundreds or thousands of your employees have personal blogs?” – at least one answer is: make it easy to find & track them all!)

To provide greater context:  it’s one thing to offer trackbacks, since those links clearly are relevant to the news release.  But to provide even more value to the reader – especially to writers who may want to draft a big article or blog post – why not offer a “Sphere It” link?  Sphere offers readers a chance to look at related news from the blogosphere and mainstream news sources.

To tighten things up:  another challenge for Version 1.0 was seeing some companies overdo it in terms of “relevant links” … Thus, in part in homage to the scalpel-sharp editing enforced by services like Twitter, I’m suggesting the optional inclusion of “3 Links That Matter” to give readers more info, context, etc.  If you only get 3 links, you’ll be forced to make ‘em good links, eh?

Note that part of the concept here is to show how a SMR might be displayed within a corporate newsroom.  But it’s a 1–page template, folks: for example, I am not suggesting that moderated comments scroll alongside the right-hand nav-bar: items like Comments and Trackbacks likely ought to be tucked under the main SMR content. 

As always, this template is offered for free to the community.  No copyright b.s.  “Hat-tips” are nice but not necessary.  Make it your own.

Hope ya’ll like Version 1.5 of the SMR.  I am submitting it to the IABC working group for their consideration.  Meanwhile, you can contact me directly, or via the comments below, with your feedback!  Or, grab me at NewComm Forum next week to discuss.  Meanwhile I’ll do my best to track any reactions on our del.icio.us page.

Learning something?  Like this post?  Great!  Are you subscribed?  Are you sharing, using that li’l universal widget below?  Thanks!!

Coming Up ACES

IStock_000005499524XSmallJosh Bernoff, a Forrester analyst, gave some well-deserved linklove this week to my colleague Chris Lynn at SocialTNT; thought I’d return the favor to one of his own colleagues!

Bruce Temkin of Forrester blogs at Experience Matters.  Back in March, Bruce came up with a clever acronym to help gauge a company’s Customer Service responsiveness, called ACES.

  • Accountability (take responsibility for fixing the problem)
  • Communication (clearly communicate the process and set expectations)
  • Empathy (acknowledge the impact that the situation has on the customer)
  • Solution (at the end of the day, make sure to solve the problem)

It felt pretty straightforward when I read it at the time – clever if not groundbreaking.  Then again, I felt the same way when Forrester originally talked about its POST model for Social Media Strategy, and yet I have referred back to it often! 

Thus it wasn’t too surprising to find myself genuinely impressed when Bruce revisited the ACES theme with a specific example – American Airlines’ recent breakdown.  The elegance of the ACES method struck me as an ingenious approach to measuring any brand’s Crisis Communications response.

I’m not sure that Bruce knew about American’s “dark blog” effort at the time of his assessment (nor how it might have impacted his overall grade of D+ for American), but I do recommend you read his post to appreciate his methodology …

… And more importantly, consider it as a guide to how your own company will be judged, the next time the craphammer comes a’slamming.




Show some social media love would ya?





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