The Halo Effect: Is Your Company Earning its Wings?

EARNED MEDIA ANGELS:  PUBLIC RELATIONS IN THE ENTERPRISE

I have to tell you about an interesting business proposal we received last week.  Interesting not for the complexity of the project, but fascinating in terms of the proposed terms.  Fascinating, yet not unique, which leads me to this conversation.

Intrigued?  Hmmm...yes.

Top Tech PR: Agency Musings

The Three Stage Public Relations Messaging Strategy

Have you synched your messaging strategy to your growth cycle?

First:  A Little Secret from Inside the Tech PR Agency World

I'm  going to let you in on a little secret; if all the top tech pr agencies in the world were to  get together for a three minutes with a mission of agreeing on ONE thing, it could be done.   There is one conversation point everyone would be in complete alignment on:

WORLD PRESS DAY: SOME POWERFUL STATS

World Press Freedom Day PRA Public Relations

One day a year, the world takes a deep-dive look at the power of the press.  But why not make the case for checking in on the health of the fourth estate on a daily basis?

Media trends, transparency, tools and access to intelligence are the bread and butter of the trade, and journalists face an every-day battle to do the work they were born to do:  cover the key features and breaking news of the world and industry, and apply needed context.  Attention to this critical mission should be on the minds, and the reading radar, of all of us, every day, right along with the journalists struggling to deliver credibility, vital news and relevance to our inboxes, devices and doorsteps.

Powerful Statistics, Sobering Reality

As citizens and residents of the United States, we take the First Amendment and its guarantee of freedom of the press as a given.  However, there are some sobering statistics we should look at.

The "didn't see that coming" statistic?  This country does not lead the way in freedom of press rights; we don't even rank in the top three.  Or even the top twenty:

According to Reporters without Borders, the United States ranks 43rd out of 180 countries for press freedom.

Across several political administrations, the fourth estate has dealt with suppression of information, attempts to reveal sources, intimidation and other factors.  And, in a sobering call to reality, journalists deal with much more than simple repression. As of today, over 13 journalists in 2017 alone have been killed in the pursuit of news.

Yes, journalists are the gatekeepers of information for our society, and they can pay a steep price for their commitment. 

What can we do, not just on World Press Day, but everyday, to help them in their mission, while guaranteeing our continued access to free and unfettered press?  Here are some simple steps:

  • Stay informed:  Not just from your favorite news sources, but a cross-section of media.  Understanding what's being shared, whether it's "true news," and being on top of media issues and trends is half the battle.  Rights and freedoms, whether press or otherwise, are often lost simply because people aren't paying attention.
  • Support legitimate news sources:  Yes, dive in behind the paywall, and pay up.  Quality news coverage costs money to produce.  We as a society have gotten used to the incredibly rich stream of information and content available to us.  Let's be grateful for this access, and put our money where are reading eyes are.  Some top media sites charge less than the cost of a cup of coffee for digital access, so sign up!
  • Question content:  There's a wealth of good guidance out in the digital world, providing guidance on whether news and reporting is truly independent and legitimate, or a paid-content attempt to influence.  The International Federation of Library Associations & Institutions has created this helpful infographic to provide context:  How to Spot Fake News

There's Hope in the Next Generation

There's a bright spot in all of this, however; and it's called the next generation. 

The Washington Post sponsored a student essay competition, which caught my eye. Designed for students in grades four - eight, it's an extraordinary "from the mouth of babes" look at what it means to have freedom of the press, here and abroad.

This year's winner is Jahnavi Dave, an eighth-grader, and her take-away was impressive:

Free press and technology go hand in hand. - Jahnavi, Dave, 8th Grader

Individuals and entities may use technology to chip away at the transparency and credibility of the press; but savvy media consumers, and tech-conversant next-generation readers also understand that technology is a powerful tool for protecting and accessing a free and independent press.

So, make every day World Press Day, and use both your rational judgment and the tools of technology to read, share and elevate the best efforts of the journalists committed to reporting on the news, trends and issues that so impact our lives.

By Pam Abrahamsson, founder, PRA Public Relations

pam@prapublicrelations.com | @Pam_A

Thought Leadership, Google & the Digital Guardian

PRA Public Relations thought leadership Google digital guardian

 

There's been a lot of change happening in the world of communications, much of it is affecting two issues near and dear to my heart:  

1.  My client's thought leadership

2.  The swiftly-evolving landscape of marketing, and the expansion of paid content.

Last week had some serendipity happening, in that several incidents converged and prodded me to give some thought to our evolving communications marketplace, and the changing roles of Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned Media*.  Here's the outcome:

Three Things Happened

1.  Top Media Access for Almost No Money

Yet again, someone called and wanted to be featured in the New York Times for a grand total investment of $500.  I responded in my usual fashion; thanking them politely for contacting me, sending on some free DIY reading materials, then hanging up and having a small fit.  Again.

2.  Yet, Someone is Doing This

A number of someones, apparently, as a partner of mine mentioned one of several companies that provide "cooked to order" articles in top publications, for the cost of most New York agency's lunch meetings.  While this has been part of the landscape for quite some time, I'm seeing a proliferation tipping point.

3.  I had my Bias Surgically Removed

By this, I meant I stepped back and took a hard look at the industry and its changes.  I need to stop automatically dismissing, and start thinking about this here-to-stay member of the marketing ecosystem.

Here is What I Saw, This is What I Think

Yes, indeed, the change in access to top publications has opened dramatically.  Content networks, and agencies focused on providing client-vetted articles to "top outlets" has proliferated, and this is not anything new.  

Democratic Ecosystem

It is part of the very democratic ecosystem that allows enterprises and thought leaders to get their messages out in the marketplace in a controlled manner.  From dialogue across social platforms, to paid-message positioning and paid amplification, the enterprise is now also the gatekeeper.  This is an excellent thing, as elbow grease and budget can now allow companies and their founders to drive their market dialogue.

The Slippery Slope Downside:  Third Person Credibility

There is a caveat however; institutions, conventions, media and markets are in many ways like a luxury car or fine jewelry:  these things only hold their value if the market consensus agrees there is value; and one of the hallmarks of value is quality and rarity.

To put it bluntly, if anyone with the price of a weekend trip to the beach can be featured in a top business magazine, then what is the value of that coverage in the publication?

Right.  Not much.  So, what protects the asset value of true earned media, the independent coverage of an issue, executive or company, by a credentialed journalist when favorable coverage and low-cost interviews are readily available?

PRA Public Relations Google Digital Marketing

Google:  Thought Leadership's Digital Guardian

While Google means many things in the marketing universe, for the discipline of public relations and its role as conveyor of thought leadership, Google has emerged as ultimate boundary and gate-keeper.  It ranks and reveals quality content, and pushes away the also-rans (which is why some of my client's coverage outranks even their website; a powerful earned media placement carries significant gravitas in the search world).

Why is Google the thought leadership gatekeeper?  Because it needs to retain its role as unbiased source of legitimate search.  Allowing search to be impacted by paid-placement media results ultimately lowers the confidence of the consumer in Google ranking and results.  An earlier post of ours takes a look at the power of Google, SEO and public relations.

This is content which is featured "as seen in" on company websites cannot be found in search.  Google won't index independent content, as it impacts credibility.  And that is an issue as critical for thought leaders and enterprises as it is for the world's foremost search engine.  Which means, in my humble opinion, the need for journalists, and independent news coverage, is here to stay.  But so are the other communication strategies.

What does all of this boil down to?  Here's what I decided

Pam's Three Laws of Thought Leadership Immutability

1. Original, Visionary Thinking Always Needed

Leaders of companies and causes lead precisely because they see pain points, solutions, big pictures, and are often the very first to see things in a fresh new light.  Society needs them; we most especially need to hear what they have to say, and read their words.  The role of the public relations expert is to help them get their words out to a larger world.  This need will never change.

2.  The Market Decides. Always

Marketplaces are peculiar things.  On a collective level, there is a continual surge and recede as solutions, products, trends and thinking are adopted and discarded.  If prestigious publications are flooded with paid content, it is highly likely the market will decide the publication is not as prestigious, or more importantly, credible**. It is no accident that media outlets considered to be "authentic" have seen extraordinary rise in readership and revenues; it is a natural reaction to the rising tide of paid and opinion-driven content being served across all channels.  So, yes, paid content is valuable, and will largely find a receptive audience.  But issues such as credibility and trust will belong to what they perceive as independent media coverage.

3. There is a Time and a Place

The reality is the marketplace - and marketing industry - needs a smart mix of ALL the channels, paid and earned.  While there is tremendous benefit to having an independent journalist cover an executive's forward thinking, or a company's breaking news, the reality is paid marketing content is critical for sustained, managed engagement with the consumer.

My course of action for my clients is to keep these channels separate and distinct.  Do not try and pass off a paid placement, advertorial or other controlled content as the work of an independent, credible journalist.  Both Google and your market community will look askance.  DO, however, use the paid and and PR channel mix to carry a blend of strategic messages and market touch-points across social, digital and media channels, ultimately connecting with your customer in a fluid, seamless and  multi-channel way.

*At the crux of this change is a topic I've written about previously:  PESO - the strategic combination of Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media channels, and their impact on both the brand and the position of company executive leadership.  

**This research summary provides a valuable look into consumers'relationship with the media.