In the office

A strange phenomenon is attacking PR agencies through the land.  Ten to fifteen years ago a PR office was a bouncing ball of nervous energy.  Lots of noise and commotion.  People waking about, a lot more on phones, tons of paper being produced, large mailing rooms, color slides of product images, spec sheets, conversations and animation. 

Today, try walking into the same office and it somewhat resembles a classroom of people in silence completing an exam... perhaps for the gentle tapping of fingers on keyboards.  Different generations communicate in different ways.  Those that have just joined the workforce in the past five to ten years use cyber-tools (email, instant messenger, social media etc) to communicate and collaborate with others.

Out of the office

Of all of the professions, PR has one of the lowest barriers to entry.  With a mobile phone and a good contact list of the press, a new PR player can get started.  Good news for the PR entrepreneur.

For those of us already in the game, a majority should be played out of the office, but I find increasingly that this is a missing component of PR.  To be successful in PR you need good relationships with the press.  While relationships can be secured over the phone and in CyberLand, there is no substitute for actually meeting face-to-face, in person.  It’s highly recommended.

In some geographical regions this is simple.  For example, when we started NettResults in the United Arab Emirates, the team needed only travel to two different areas in Dubai.  Within a day it was possible to have been in the offices of almost all of the major publishing houses.  That face-face-face time is invaluable to build agency/media relationships.  In the United States it is going to be far more difficult to get in-front of the media without spending a fortune on flights for they are distributed coast-to-coast and in all major cities in-between.

Before you start booking flights, we need to define which media we are targeting. So lets take a closer look at where the press is located and how to reach them.

 

In your town

If you were getting publicity for a locally owned Italian restaurant with one location in your home city, then you know where you need to get coverage. 

If you were located in Springfield[1] you’d want to include KBBL Broadcasting Inc. which serves as the major media outlet, owning at least three radio stations and one television station and in The Springfield Shopper which is the city’s newspaper.

If you were located in Metropolis[2] you’d want to target Metropolis' premier newspaper, The Daily Planet, one of the most renowned news organizations in the DC Universe. The city is also home to the national Newstime magazine. Other major media located in Metropolis include WGBS-TV, flagship station of the Galaxy Broadcasting System (GBS) television network, both subsidiaries of media conglomerate Galaxy Communications.

You could get coverage in other city titles – for example, Time Out London[3] or New York Magazine[4], but seeing as both London and New York are ‘worlds apart’ from Springfield and Metropolis, it is unlikely that even if a hungry, Italian food loving foodie was to read your publicity they would probably not make the trip to visit your restaurant.

In short you need to target the press that represent the sphere of influence of your subject matter.  How far would you travel for a good Italian restaurant?  Probably not much further than your own town or city.

In your area

Other products or services have a wider appeal. If you were into classical music, you may well travel further to reach a venue that a well-known orchestra was playing. If you wanted to see a band you own a couple of albums of perform – how far would you travel? In the U.S. this might be county or even statewide.  In other countries this may be some other definable district.

In this case you would not only target the media in your own city, but also the media that target the surrounding cities or areas. 

In your country

Some media are countrywide. Most obvious are the national daily newspapers of countries.  For smaller geographical countries, this also includes a wide variety of TV stations and possibly radio stations.  Other print media (such as weekly and monthly – consumer or trade focused – magazines) may also be appropriate for national publicity. 

The general rule is that the more consumer orientated the product/service is, the more local you want to target your media.  It comes down to readership/viewer numbers. If you are marketing something that appeals to a very broad target, then you can get really local. If, conversely, you are targeting something quite specific then to get the numbers to a commercially acceptable level for a publication, the geographical area will be broader.

Media that target a specific interest will find the right route to these readers/viewers.  So, for example, a listing of the best restaurants (if a lot of people go out to eat) will be citywide.  The magazine that targets those interested in nuclear biology will probably not be citywide, as there are probably not too many nuclear biologists in one city.

If McDonalds are going to launch a new menu item, based on the fact they have restaurants in every town and city in the country and attract a very broad spectrum of customers, it might make sense for them to work with consumer focused media that are countrywide.

If IBM is going to launch a new server that costs over $15,000 they are not primarily going to want to target the local city newspaper.  They are more likely to work with media that target IT professionals in the size/type of companies/organizations that can afford and find a use for their server.  While all the IT professionals across a country may read many, many different city newspapers, they probably only read from a handful of technology magazines.  So clearly is more efficient for the PR professional to target this group of people by interest/occupation rather than by their geographical location.

 

Internationally

Then there are products/services that are being launched in multiple countries at the same time.  While McDonald’s new menu item may be tailored to the taste buds of an individual country, the chances are that the new IBM server may be available (wattage permitting) in multiple countries.

This is when it becomes interesting.  Very few traditional media in the world of public relations work over multiple countries.  Do English people read French newspapers?  Even when languages and cultures are similar, media is differentiated – while some common titles exist in both the USA and Canada, they mostly comprise of different content that is targeted for an individual country.  This means that a PR pro will have to pitch the story twice – each time to the journalist or editor looking after each country’s edition of that title.

In some regions of the world, there are media that hit multiple countries in one go.  For example, in the Middle East, where Dubai acts as a media hub for the region, you can find three newspapers (in Arabic language) and multiple magazines (mostly English language) that are distributed in multiple countries at once.  One of the leading pan-Arabic daily newspapers is Asharq Al-Awsat, with a circulation of 200,000, printed simultaneously in twelve cities on four continents.

The exception to this fragmented media by country is everything we read or view online…

Beyond international - CyberLand

A geography of it’s own – once you consider online media, you’re beyond most geographical boundaries.

Sidebar

When online media coverage first became important a large technology client of NettResults asked us to review the online media in the Middle East that they could target to get their MP3 players talked about.  As an agency, we spend the time and the money available to find out what people were looking at on their computer screens.  Although this client had correctly set up a Middle East specific web page, which was available in both English and Arabic languages, to showcase and sell directly their products, the web sites that their audience was reading was not geographically located in that same region.  The web sites that were being used to compare competitor products, or to view the latest technology developments were from all over the world.  Unsurprisingly, a lot were from the U.S.A. as the majority of web traffic comes from this one country, but they could not be tied down to one region. 

The question then became, should NettResults as the Agency of Record covering the Middle East act as the agency for media that the Middle East customers were looking at, or where the media are located. 

The general consensus for the above question if we were talking about a print title would be to engage with that media if the print title was distributed in the target country.  When we look at online media the answer is less obvious.

Online media, blogs and social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) come in many different flavors.  What is important when considering online content is:

Affiliation – many places that you click to for news, opinion or views are affiliated to traditional media.  For example, the CNN’s web site or mobile app is clearly branded and affiliated with CNN the broadcaster. It is the same with many smaller industry or interest magazines and their associated online presence.

Reach – In today’s society, reach online is normally controlled by two factors – the language it is written in and proxy servers (control) a nation makes on what sites can be viewed.  Mandarin (1.025 billion speakers – or 1.2 billion if you include all varieties of Chinese language) and Spanish (390 million) are the two greatest spoken languages, followed by English, Hindi-Urdu and then Arabic. Needless to say, an article online written in Czech will have less of a reach in CyberLand compared to one written in English.

As to proxy servers.  Some nations control what sites their residents can reach, normally based on religious beliefs and cultural norms.  For example, in the United Arab Emirates, a proxy server will refuse access to a site name with characters that includes ‘sex’.  If you were from Middlesex, Vermont and wanted to access your community newspaper you would be out of luck.

Credibility – This is both at the author/reporter and magazine/blog level.  Both need to be credible for an online publication to be of value. To break down credibility, the online content needs to have both trustworthiness and expertise.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics, professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility.

Frequency – The amount of posts or activity in a social media outlet is also going to dictate the importance.  This is some what dictated by time factors of the subject matter.  A subject matter with many levels of interests to consumers will need to post more than a slower moving subject matter. For example, The 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London (officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad), were the first Olympic Games to be held in the social media age. With so many people around the world interested in so many different sports, sporting personalities and related subjects, CyberLand was ablaze with postings on all social media platforms.  Compare that to an interest in brain surgery, which didn’t go through any major breakthroughs during the Summer of 2012, and had far less social media frequency.

For a moment consider that a regular Twitter account that is following 500 will only show activity/posts that were made in the last one minute on one screen at any given moment. So, if you are being followed by someone and you post your latest wisdom, and that follower grabs a can of soda, chances are that new posts will have come in and pushed your posting below their view in the time they walked away from their screen.

Influence – dictated by the size of the network, overall social media presence and the strength and reliability of the connections. Influence is not a defined variable, and there are various online tools (from TwentyFeet’s to Klout) that use slightly different factors and variables to measure influence, but at a basic level these are going to include friends and followers, retweets, mentions and Facebook status comments.

Clearly, the greater the influence, the more important the online media is going to be for your public relations outreach. Be sure to look at the outlet (or social media platform) and the individual person posting as both are an important factor.

Side Bar – Which Bloggers to Target

We use a couple of simple templates to build our target bloggs.

First we need to list the important criteria for the client.  From experience these could include but are not limted to:

- Caliber – for example is they are associated to a national newspaper, an industry title or some other formal industry association/club. Maybe it is a known journalist but writing unaffiliated, or maybe the journalist is unknown

- Relevance – if the blog is focused on the right subject matter specifically, in a broad way or just in passing

- Reach – which can be measured by the number of RSS subscribers or other membership/readership factor

- Frequency – Number of relevant posts in a defined period, for example, in the past 6 months.

For each blog, score them on a 1 to 5 scale for each of the important criteria. Add up these scores per blog and we get an influence score.

Next we look at the tone of the blogs.

We measure the number of positive posts in a pre-defined time period (for example past 6 months) and take that number away from the number of negative posts in the same time period. This gives the tone score.

At this point, and for each blog, you might like to note other information about the journalist/outlet that will be relevant for engagement.

The third step is the plot each blog on a chart. The X-axis is used for tone with the middle being neutral, and any blog that has more positive than negative posts on the right hand side of the graph and all blogs that have more negative than positive posts on the left hand side of the graph.

The Y-axis is used for influence.  If you had four important criteria and each had a maximum score of five, then the top of the chart is 20, the mid point is 10 and the bottom of the graph is zero.

Once you plot all your blogs on the chart you’ll see there are four quadrants, which will allow the client to prioritize outreach and build blog strategy.

About: Highly influential but tends to be more negative about the industry than positive. A tailored education process is needed here.

Strategy: Build a relationship with these blogs but approach with care.

About: Highly influential and positive about the industry.

Strategy: Will generally be receptive to building/furthering relationship.

About: Less positive about the industry but similarly not particularly influential. Strategy: Monitor output but do not actively engage.

About: Writes more positive than negative stories but not as influential as other blogs in the space.

Strategy:  Monitor output and engage when the opportunity arises.

 

You’re now ready to monitor the correct blogs, learn their styles before beginning an outreach campaign.

 


[1] Springfield is the fictional city in which the American animated television series The Simpsons is set. Springfield is a mid-sized city in an unknown state. The town of Springfield acts as a complete universe in which characters can explore the issues faced by modern society.

[2] Metropolis is a fictional city that appears in comic books published by DC Comics, and is the home of Superman.

[3] The Time Out weekly listing magazines for a particular city contains information about events in film, theatre, fashion, literature and all other artistic events happening, as well as eat out and night out sections. The London edition has a circulation of 86,000 copies and a readership of 374,000 people.

[4] New York Magazine covers, analyzes, comments on and defines the news, culture, entertainment, lifestyle, fashion and personalities that drive New York City. New York Magazine, founded in April 1968, reaches 1.8 million readers each week and is published by New York Media Holdings, LLC.

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