Fireside / Archives

Formulating Your Game Plan: The Keys to Success in Football and PR

Game-plan-2With summer fading, most of my thoughts are focused on two things: the always hectic final quarter of the year and football.  With co-workers, clients and media back in the office after summer vacations and tradeshow after tradeshow, fall is a busy time for most PR professionals.  As the weather cools down and work heats up, I spend my weekdays at the office and weekends (along with the occasional Monday or Thursday night) glued to the TV screen, cheering on my favorite NFL and college teams.  With my mind so focused on this mix of business and pleasure, it’s hard not to notice the parallels that exist between a results-oriented PR campaign and the game plan for a Super Bowl contending team.

Strategy is at the Core

Well before players hit the grid iron, they have a well-thought-out, calculated plan of action in place.  They’ve studied the competition and know what they’re up against; they’re aware of their own strengths and weakness.

Strategy is also the most essential element of a public relations campaign.  Before drafting the headline of a press release or picking up the phone to make the first pitch call, it’s vital to understand the ultimate goal and the most effective avenues that will lead to it.  This requires research on market trends and what the competition is doing, as well as an analysis of the challenges and key differentiators.

Tackling the Tactics

The game clock has started ticking.  The team is on the field, carefully executing the plays they’ve been practicing.  While they’ve worked hard to prepare, they know that the other team has the same goal in mind and will try equally as hard to do what it takes to achieve it.

Remember you’re not the only fish in the sea.  As PR professionals, we face fierce competition when it comes to capturing a reporter’s attention.  They receive hundreds of emails a day so to be successful at getting our clients in the news, we must develop compelling content that separates us from the competition.

Just like the team’s quarterback, we can expect that things won’t always go as planned and we must demonstrate the ability to make last minute adjustments at the line of scrimmage.  If a reporter does not accept your first angle, use the intel you’ve gathered from your research on the reporter and his readership, and try pitching a new angle.

Play-by-Play Analysis

Win or lose, after the clock stops it’s time to go back to the drawing board.  The team must analyze the game to determine what went right and what didn’t.  They’ll learn from the plays that resulted in success, such as 107 yard kickoff return that ended with a touchdown, as well as plays that didn’t quite go as planned like multiple turnovers that resulted in touchdowns for the other guys.   This reflection will help the team formulate a stronger game plan for the next matchup.

At the conclusion of each PR campaign, it’s vital to measure the results against the goals initially set-forth.  With a play by-play-recap of the campaign, we can identify the successes and failures and realign our approach to ensure the desired outcome is repeated or achieved in the future.

Whether you’re on the field or in a PR agency, execution of a strategic game plan is the key to achieving success.

How Much Klout do you Have?

You’ve set up your company Twitter account and are tweeting with your followers, your company Facebook page is up and running and the number of likes are increasing.  Now what?  How do you measure how well your social properties are performing?  Enter, Klout.  Klout is a free service that measures influence across a number of social media platforms.  Originally just for individual users, the company recently released Klout for Business (currently in beta) to help businesses better gauge their influence on social media.

Klout defines influence as the response received from what a user shares on social media.  The more you engage with your audience and they engage with you in return, the higher the Klout score.  With the individual accout, Klout tracks more than 400 distinct points across a variety of social media channels to create a Klout score, including Wikipedia pages.  Having a number of properties linked will only help the Klout score increase.  Data is updated every 24 hours and scores fluctuate based on how much engagement there is.  Stop tweeting for a week and your score could go down sharply.  Klout The site also includes insights into what topics influencers care about the most and recommendations on how to better engage with your audience.

One limitation with a business account, probably due to it still being in beta, is that not all social media properties are available for businesses as for individual account holders (for instance, LinkedIn can only be connected to an individual account, not to a company LinkedIn page, and there is no way to link a company’s Wikipedia page).  Even with its shortcomings, however, having a Klout for Business account is still a good tool in your arsenal to track how your social media program is performing.  It should not be seen as the authority – each company has unique goals and expectations for their social media program which should be measured individually – but adding Klout for Business into the equation allows one more metric for measurement.  And today, when everyone seems to want to know ROI and have hard metrics behind their communications strategy, having another metric – and a concrete score – is a helpful tool in any communicator’s toolkit.

PR & SEO – A New Partnership for the 21st Century

SEO_meets_PR-cropped

There has been a good deal of press lately about the relationship between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and public relations (see Huffington Post article from last week).  Right on time, PRSA Richmond chapter held a morning panel on PR and SEO entitled, “PR + SEO: Let’s Get it On.”

Brian Forrester of Dynamic Web Solutions spoke first.  He said that measurable marketing is king – people expect results from their spend – and search marketing is in its Golden Age.  As more and more content is moving online, it is more important than ever that people be able to filter the authoritative content from the junk.  SEO promises to do this.  By ranking sites based on their number of backlinks (i.e., quality links from external sites) search engines filter results based on most important (or popular) content.   In other words,  in order to rank high on Google’s search engine, public relations and marketing professionals must get others to link back to their company/client sites.  But how do you get backlinks?  You can’t make someone link to your site.  The link between PR and SEO becomes more clear as SEO success is reliant on public relations professionals’ ability to promote content to a wider audience that can generate these backlinks.

And according to the next speaker, Shannon Lehey of Unboxed Technology, the trick is to create content that is of interest to others that they will naturally want to link to.  Remember, it isn’t enough to just put out content, you need to create content that is authoritative and will appeal to others.  In order to create good content, first work to create a clear content strategy with a cohesive brand voice.  A solid content strategy is like glue,  it ties everything in together.   And, by taking the time to know your brand and your audience, you can create content that others want to share, generate backlinks and increase SEO.

The third speaker was Ken Shafer, the SEO guru at Snagajob.  He offered some practical tips on how PR professionals can best measure SEO success.  He recommended two sites to measure new links – moz.com and ahrefs.com.  (Ken prefers ahrefs.com because it is updated in real-time.)  He suggested creating a spreadsheet with a column for PR that would pull in search engine traffic driven specifically through public relations-related activities (e.g., press releases, blog posts, etc.).  This way public relations is no longer seen as “fluff.”  Instead, public relations professionals will be armed with concrete, measurable data of how well  a campaign performed.

So, there you have it.  In the 21st century, SEO and public relations will be inextricably linked.  SEO will need public relations to push out and promote content for its success and PR will rely more on SEO to provide concrete ROI measurements for campaign success.

Social Media Sonar Graphs with Bottlenose

So you have the Twitter account up and running and you’re posting daily, interacting with others, and following the conversations but how do you really know what the key trends are so you can contribute in a more effective way?  How can you take all those conversations and put them into a visually appealing graph so others can quickly digest the conversations?  Or, how can you synthesize the conversation occurring around one, key term?  The answer, my friends, is Bottlenose.

Bottlenose is currently in beta with a pro, paid version on the way, but for now you can use their service to analyze trends in real-time in your twitter and other social media feeds, generate sonar charts based on your choice of keywords, and more.  It aims to make sense of what is happening now so you can react and interact as conversations are happening.  And the best part?  It’s free!  It takes a couple minutes to set up with your Twitter account and then you’re up and analyzing the trends and conversations happening between you and your followers.
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The feature I like best is the Bottlenose sonar graph.  It is a graphical depiction of the conversation around a chosen key word.  It’s great to use if you’re running a campaign and want to see in real-time what people are saying around a key term.  You will probably discover some trends you didn’t even know were occurring that will lead to richer engagement in the future.

Bottlenose Pro promises to have more robust analytic capabilities, but for those just starting to measure their social media reach and engagement, the free version is a good way to start.  So, what are you waiting for?  Jump on in – the water’s fine!