Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Art of Persuasion... just Because

The Background: As you know, good PR is all about the art of persuasion. You are persuading the client to go with your strategy and persuading the media to cover your client.

The Find: Giving a reason, any reason, may help you persuade others to do as you ask.

The Source: Tips on polishing your persuasion skills from, ‘Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive’ - by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin, Robert B. Cialdini.

The Takeaway: This is based on research carried out by behavioural scientist Ellen Langer and her colleagues, which involved someone trying to cut in line to use a photo copier.

Langer set up three scenarios:

1 - A stranger approaches someone waiting in line to use a photocopier and simply asks: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Sixty percent of people agreed to allow the stranger to cut in line when faced with this direct request.

2 - Next, a stranger made the same request but added a reason: “May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” Nearly everyone (94 percent) agreed.

3 - Finally, the stranger approached and gave a totally senseless reason for the request, but still employed the word ‘because’: “May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” Despite the inanity of the reason, 93 percent of people still complied with the request.

The Conclusion: If you want to persuade someone to publish a story or cover your client’s news, give them a reason. Of course, a good reason is best, but even if you think your reason is less than compelling, this research suggests that the media are more likely to comply than if you had given no reason at all.

Why is giving a reason going to improve your PR coverage? Because the research says so.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Web 3.0 and International Public Relations

In May 2006, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web stated:

“People keep asking what Web 3.0 is, I think maybe when you've got an overlay of scalable vector graphics - everything rippling and folding and looking misty - on Web 2.0 and access to a semantic Web integrated across a huge space of data, you'll have access to an unbelievable data resource.”

So what does this mean to international public relations?

We’ve hardly got a firm grip on Web 2.0 and already we have to understand and utilise Web 3.0. Well don’t start to get too tense – there is still a wide variation as to what Web 3.0 really is or means. But at this point in the middle of 2008 there does seem to be a trend emerging in the form of the semantic web.

“The semantic web is the extension of the world wide web that enables people to share content beyond the boundaries of applications and websites." 

To help appreciate Web 3.0’s applicability to PR, BurrellesLuce suggests we consider the following relational statements:
* PRSA is a well-known organization for public relations professionals.
* Jane Doe is a member of PRSA’s Detroit chapter.
* PRSA publishes a monthly journal called Public Relations Tactics.

It’s easy for humans to process such concepts, but for computers it’s a very different matter. Since computers and machines do not understand syntax and logic the way we do, they are unable to link ideas together. The semantic web seeks to “describe the relationship between things (like A is a part of B and Y is a member of Z) and their properties (like size, weight, age, and price)” in a language recognizable to computers.

Unlike the Internet, which relies on human editing of documents, the semantic web allows information to be digitally pulled from a variety of sources and synthesized with precision.

BurrellesLuce continues to suggest three ways Web 3.0 could improve the work lives of public relations professionals

1. You’ll be able to spend less time searching for relevant information. Web 3.0 will permit you to do what you do best — craft and disseminate your organization’s or client’s messages.

2. More-focused messaging will increase the odds of pinpointed delivery to your intended audiences. The ability for your audience to “pull” the appropriate information as needed (think RSS on steroids) means less “pushing” of your ideas onto a general audience.

3. Reaching the appropriate targets will allow for the development and maintenance of deeper, more-productive relationships.

In an effort to create an interactive dialogue between businesses and consumers, many public relations professionals heavily use online technology, including social media, podcasts, and viral video. For those who are just beginning to take the plunge or who haven’t yet considered doing so, using these communication channels can stir up some anxiety.

With Web 3.0 capabilities in place, PR professionals could, in theory, cross reference data both in and outside a given social network, as well as other sources — helping to zero in on a targeted audience. Each audience member, in turn, could use the same method to find providers most closely aligned with its needs. The high precision and speed offered by Web 3.0 will enable PR practitioners to create closer one-to-one relationships, shedding the one-to-many approach common to traditional outreach efforts.

Which of course all good PR professionals know, means we have to get increasingly personal with the media we interact with. One press release email spammed to 100 contacts is not going to cut it. If you work agency side you have to understand the client deeply, understand the media deeply and marry the two in a personal manner.

Friday, July 11, 2008

4 Generations to Target

For many public relations professionals, selecting the prime channels to use when reaching their targeted audience can be a daunting challenge. The task is made even more demanding when the intended audience spans several generations. Sometimes targeting generations helps overcome the complexity of multiple international markets... if only there was a good way to target the generations.

BurrellesLuce has released an interesting white paper that does just this.

Broadly speaking, today’s PR audience comprises four generations. Listed below are the generally accepted parameters of each group, and historical milestones that helped to form their worldview:

* Traditionalists (born before 1946) – Were shaped by the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean War.
* Boomers (born 1947 to 1964) – Came of age at the time of the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, space exploration, and the assassinations of prominent national figures.
* Generation Xers (born 1965 to 1976) – Were young observers of, or participants in, the Watergate hearings, the first energy shocks of the 1970s, the women’s liberation movement, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the first Gulf War.
* Millennials (born 1977 to 1989) – Grew up during a period of large-scale school shootings, the Oklahoma City bombing, rapidly advancing technology, the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, and the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Generational values at a glance

Their research shows that each generation also possesses a distinctive set of core values. These widely shared beliefs and perceptions shape decisions and behaviors.

A generation’s core values should matter to a PR practitioner because they can significantly influence message development. The following lists the core values that are most closely associated with each generation, although not necessarily exclusive. In addition, people born in proximity to the cutoff points may internalize some of the the values that more typically characterize the generation on the other side of the chronological divide:

Traditionalist = Hard work; Dedication; Respect for rules; Duty before pleasure; Honor
Boomers = Optimism; Personal gratification; Team orientation; Involvement; Personal growth
Xers = Diversity; Fun and informality; Techno literacy; Self-reliance; Pragmatism
Millennials = Optimism; Confidence; Civic duty; Achievement; Respect for diversity

Media usage also varies

Not surprisingly, some research* shows significant differences in media consumption by generation. For example, the two older generations spend more time following the news and are more likely to read print versions of newspapers than do the two younger generations.

Another way of slicing the pie:
multi-generational media and life stages

One research model applies terms such as Traditionalist, Boomer, GenX, and Millennial not to an age group but rather to the types of media utilized. Thus, a Boomer who often logs on to social media sites, chat rooms, and online communities may actually align with Millennial values. Similarly, a Millennial who eagerly peruses the printed pages of newspapers and magazines may exhibit core values closely resembling those of their Traditionalist or Boomer counterparts.

Other research has suggested that a generation also can be understood in terms of the stage of life in which individuals find themselves. So in theory, a career-driven Xer who is experiencing all the events associated with that lifestyle could just as easily be a woman in her 30s as a woman in her 50s.

Communications tactics that bridge the generation gap

Ultimately, there is no “one size fits all” medium, as audiences vary widely. However, there are ways to ensure that you are communicating effectively with each of the commonly defined generations.

1. Understand your audience by demographic. A little research can go a long way. Determining the gender, age, and other key characteristics of your core audience is the first step in creating a successful campaign. Your marketing department should have the data to share with you; if not, start to gather it on your own.

2. Shape messages based on audience values. Knowing that Boomers often view themselves as team players who value personal growth while Millennials see themselves as confident individuals with a respect for diversity can help you build messages aligned with each constituency.

3. Use media channels most frequented by your target audience. A large part of getting your message into the right hands involves knowing how and where your audience gathers information. If you’re looking to reach a general consumer audience, you may find beneficial research from analyst firms such as Forrester or Jupiter. Better yet, conduct your own customer surveys and interviews, which will enable you to target your messages with precision.

4. Pay attention to those responding. Cross-generational values and multi-generational media outlets can cause your messages to reach more than just your intended audience. Therefore, you should closely examine who responds to the calls to action contained in your news coverage, in order to properly tailor future messages.


*The Pew Research Center, The Maturing Internet News Audience, 7.30.06
The Pew Research Center, Generation Online, 12.05
Annual Knowledge Networks, How People Use TV’s Web Connections, 3.11.08

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Keep your Press Releases RELEVANT

A recent study of Journalists in the US (stated in PR Week) found news releases are used by 90% of business journalists as sources for story ideas.

However, as 54% of those same journalists say they also turn to bloggers, press releases must go beyond simple text and incorporate features like links, social media tags, images and when possible video.

Quick technique tips:
1 – DO include links to pages where multiple instances of your key words/phrases reinforce your message
2 – DO place terms in key positions like headlines and first paragraphs
3 – DON’T go link crazy – too many links confuse journalist
4 - DON’T use low res images – opt for high res multimedia that can easily be used (or provide links to high res)

Monday, July 7, 2008

3 simple ways to exceed customer satisfaction

While we are in the PR business we are also most definitely in the customer satisfaction business.

To exceed customer satisfaction makes them feel good and makes our life easier (happier clients are so much easier to deal with).

From my experience there are three simple ways to achieve this:

1 – Get ahead of the client
Don’t you sometimes know that given a day or week the client is going to ask for something? If you haven’t been offering proactive creative ideas on an account and are worried that the client is going to call you on it, then it is possibly time to get ahead of the client and go on the attack before you have to defend.

The more you work within an industry the easier it is to get ahead of a client.
After working with Creative Labs and them telling us about the convergence of technology and music... We then used the same ’convergence’ story with O2 and Motorola.

2 – Infuse Passion
The one complaint I hear about PR agencies is that they are not passionate about the client or the client’s product/services. Believe me, when I sell into a client I am so passionate that they believe I would do anything for their brand. That is one of the small secrets of sales and it is also a secret of happy PR clients. Use the client’s service/products and learn to love them.

3 – What’s new
It’s something that you should constantly be asking the client from their company perspective. I have had too many meetings with Habib Bank AG Zurich to mention which starts by me asking, “What stories do you have for us” just to be met with silence. When I then ask them to tell me everything in the bank that is new I normally come away with 4 or 5 stories.

The other side of the “What’s New” coin is being able to tell the client what’s new in the region and their industry. You can pick this up very quickly by reading the newspaper a magazine and logging into international web sites.

These three simple concepts will help you make the client happier and will make your life easier.

And everyone in PR wants an easier life.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Social Media & Public Relations

Social media: a tech term you've been hearing about. FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, and Kazaa. On the business side, what about LinkedIn, CraigsList, and EBay? They, too, exemplify:

" ... the integration of technology and interaction" (from Wikipedia, a 'wiki' website and yet another example).

This (or any) blog is also a type of social media. We're blogging to have a conversation with someone having a shared interest: you. You can comment back and tell us what you think: you can interact. And our blogging goal is to create a community to connect, share, and for you to come back: we're marketing. But is a business blog worth your investment of time and money? What's the ROI of social media?

Let's take a look at a community, in fact a merging of several communities, by one example: a recent podcast on the ROI of social media marketing. But, before we listen to it, let's peel back its social layers. It is:

* First, it is a podcast, an audio file that can be streamed ('listened to') online, downloaded for later, or (this is important) linked on emails, websites, and blogs;
* Second, this podcast was distributed by IT Conversations: a company that has created a community of people with shared interest in tech podcasts (i.e. a social network);
* Next, this podcast was originally recorded by yet another company, Talking Portraits, with its own online community; and,
* Last, the person being interviewed, Giovanni Gallucci, is an authority with his own community through his blog, The Agency Blog. And, how do we learn he's an 'authority'? That's right, through yet another social community hosted by Technorati.

One podcast. So many connections. So many (potential) ears.

Back to the podcast. It's 41 minutes on the topic of the ROI of social media marketing (SMM). Tom Parish (Talking Portraits) interviews Giovanni G. They are both developers and technologists, and seem to be talking 'to' both providers of SMM services and businesses considering SMM (i.e. you). The first couple of minutes are a bit clunky, but they soon fall into a very informative chat on SMM. Things to listen for:

* The difference between campaign marketing and relationships marketing;
* Short-term versus long-term marketing goals;
* The importance of community trust, and how little control you have over it;
* The commitment required - expected - by your audience;
* That ROI might not be quantifiable, but there are valuable marketing benefits to be gained;
* They use several examples. Here are links to some of them: Mattel's BarbieGirls, Lego, Digg.

Marketing hasn't changed, but these new social media tools introduce some new dynamics. Over the next few months this blog hopes to spread news about how social media is effecting and working in one marketing function - public relations. We also hope to cover other areas in public relations so this blog builds a community of PR professionals. And we hope you will tell us what interests you by adding to this blog.