New free whitepaper will help PR and marketing professionals kick start or improve online PR programmes


Hot off the digital press today is a new whitepaper from Daryl Willcox Publishing entitled “Online PR in action – an introduction to implementing and measuring a digital PR programme.” I have a very personal interest in this – I wrote it. Within the confines of a 4000 word whitepaper, we’ve tried to make it as comprehensive as possible – but clearly, all feedback will be appreciated. Let the conversation begin (see below for press release):

PR and marketing professionals looking to kick start or improve their online communications programmes now have a valuable new free guide thanks to the publication today of the latest whitepaper from Daryl Willcox Publishing (DWPub). The whitepaper, entitled “Online PR in action – an introduction to implementing and measuring a digital PR programme”, sets out the basic steps required to get results from digital media. The whitepaper was written by digital PR veteran Andrew Bruce Smith, founder of online PR specialist consultancy escherman. It was inspired by a lack of detailed information about how to pull together all the various elements of a successful online PR campaign – despite huge volumes of information available on specific aspects of the subject.

According to Smith: “PR and marketing professionals are spoilt for choice when it comes to information available on niche features of online PR such as press release distribution or search engine optimisation (SEO). It occurred to me that much of this material was being produced by search marketing specialists rather than PR practitioners. And no one had really put together a practical guide that looked at the subject from the perspective of the PR professional – whether in-house or agency – as well as looking at the entire PR process from planning through implementation to analysis and reporting. This new whitepaper aims to provide a solid framework for allowing PR professionals from SMEs to larger businesses to begin making rapid improvements to their online PR campaigns.”

DWPub chairman Daryl Willcox said: “There are tons of people out there blogging about how important online PR is, but there is very little in terms of actual guidance – especially for those who have limited online PR experience. This latest whitepaper seeks to address that imbalance and give people a practical introduction to digital PR techniques.” In the whitepaper’s foreword, Willcox warns that if PR professionals do not adapt to an increasingly digital media, they risk being sidelined by other marketing disciplines. Willcox first made this prediction in his 2007 whitepaper entitled “PR versus Search” – a forecast that is showing signs of coming true. “Online PR in action” is the latest in the Public Relations Whitepaper Series from DWPub which covers such topics as press release writing, getting coverage in feature articles and working with freelance journalists.

All the whitepapers can be downloaded at http://www.dwpub.com/whitepapers

Online services from DWPub, such as its media database and online press release distribution services, are effective tools for supporting online PR campaigns.

For more information contact:

Vanessa McGreevy

Daryl Willcox Publishing

Tel: 0845 370 7777

Email: vanessa@dwpub.com

Andrew Smith Escherman

Tel: 0208 334 8095

andrew@escherman.com

About Daryl Willcox Publishing

Online services for journalists and media relations specialists http://www.dwpub.com Daryl Willcox Publishing (DWPub) focuses entirely on online information services for journalists and PR professionals. DWPub brands enjoy widespread recognition with both the press and the PR community. DWPub is a UK-owned independent company and has grown every year since its launch in 1997. The company was founded and is run by an experienced journalist.

A new PR metric for Twitter: Cost Per @ Reply (CP@)?


Last Friday evening, I enjoyed some happy Twitter banter with a few journalists including Charles Arthur and Jack Schofield of The Guardian (in fact it was feedback from Jack that  resulted in the new look for this blog). It was only after the event that it occurred to me what was novel about the whole experience.

The modern PR industry has always laid great store by the concept of building journalist relationships – PR agency reports are littered with the term “journalist liaison” (which covers a multitude of sins from ringing up a hack to check if he/she got the press release, to taking him/her to lunch, or even trying to pitch a meaningful story).

With Twitter, the whole process of “building journalist relationships” can be played out in a very public way. If gaining a journalist’s attention is seen as a key criteria of PR, then in Twitter you have an objective measure of attention – namely the @ reply. If a journalist can be bothered to muster an @ reply to a PR, then presumably that is worth something? As Charles Arthur pointed out, could we see the emergence of a new PR metric – Cost Per @ Reply? Or CP@?

Of course, Charles wasn’t being entirely serious – and neither am I. You would see the usual issues with PR metrics arise again. Is an @ reply from, say, Charles Arthur, worth more than one from a small circulation trade mag? And unless all those @ replies actually end up as a piece of coverage, is it worth anything at all?

Still, even in jest, there might be some mileage in the CP@ concept. For prospective clients, simply searching a journalist’s Twitter stream would certainly be one way to see which PRs are attempting to engage with a particular journalist – and which PRs journalists respond to with @ replies (perhaps intelligent use of hash tags could make identifying good PRs easier to spot).  Journalists using Twitter as a public feedback mechanism to PRs might help to improve the quality of material they get. Well, we can but dream.

Jack Schofield at The Guardian bullies hapless PR blogger


That’s the headline (sort of) that Guardian Technology Editor Charles Arthur suggested I use. As regular readers may have noticed, this blog has had a theme redesign. And Jack Schofield is the reason. Last Friday evening, whilst indulging in a bit of Twitter banter, Jack pointed out that he thought my previous blog theme was difficult to read. And having looked at it again, I decided I agreed with him. A few minutes of poking around the available themes on WordPress and I came up with this one. It is simple, clean – and most importantly, readable. And Jack gave his thumbs up.

An example of how PR can react quickly to journalist feedback in the modern world.

10 things for Charles Arthur to consider about the tech PR industry


Charles Arthur at The Guardian has been musing on his relationship with the PR business and sparked a cavalcade of comment, mainly from PRs. I posted the following as a comment, but at time of writing, it hadn’t appeared, so here is my response again (apologies to regular readers who are probably familiar with many of the points I make):

1. Every time someone like Charles bemoans the “did you get my press release” tactic, PRs rush to decry the practice: “Oh no, we don’t do that”. Then who the bloody hell is then? It clearly continues at a significant enough rate to remain an issue for journalists across the board.

2. Profit margins for most PR companies are small (20pc plus net pre-tax margin is a stellar performance. Breaking even or making the loss is the norm for most (66pc of PR firms says Plimsoll). Don’t believe me? Go and look at Companies House data. Even in the boom times of the late 90s, the way companies made real money was through overservicing. As an old boss put it to me recently, “we made the profits we did because people were prepared to consistently work beyond 6pm at night.”

3. Overservicing in trad PR continues to be endemic. And is getting worse. As a result, more people are leaving the industry and those that come in to it, don’t expect to stay around for too long.

4. The basic finder/minder/grinder model (director/manager/account executive) of PR agency is still in place. It is predicated on media relations being the primary reason clients hire an agency. (A recent survey shows that print coverage is still deemed more valuable than online coverage by PR firms and their clients). And yet as I’ve cited many times before, your average agency spends barely 15pc of its time on media relations. The vast majority of time is spent on account management/reporting/admin. For all the words poured out by tech PR firms about their clients products, how many are actually deploying them in smart ways to automate whole swathes of admin and reporting that is currently being solved by throwing bodies at the problem?

5. Who starts PR companies? People who have worked for other PR firms. (I’ve wracked my brains to think of a PR company that has been started by someone from outside of PR – perhaps the industry could do with some fresh eyes on the problem). The only model they have any knowledge of are the firms they have previously worked for. If the same basic model is still being used, and it appears not to be working, isn’t it time someone developed a new model?

6. PR firms are generally poor at client expectation setting. This is usually driven by the need to win business at any cost – because there is a generally pessimistic view that you have to keep getting new business because you are bound to lose some of your existing business. Life is a constant battle to keep more coming in the top than you lose out of the bottom. (Given that the av. tech marketeer lasts on average 2 years in the job, a cynic might argue that this is a sensible attitude. The number one reason for an agency losing the business is a change of client personnel rather than poor performance). Over promising leads to overservicing, squeezed margins, less money on training, and ever more desperate tactics (see point 1) being deployed.

7. There are more PR people chasing fewer journalists. The signal to noise ratio for journalists grows ever higher. It leads to PR firms trying to squeeze every ounce of juice out of the traditional PR agency model ie throw cheap resource at delivering over ambitious targets for clients with more demanding expectations – based on a total addressable (print) media coverage space that is getting smaller by the day.

8. I suspect a 90:10 ratio exists in terms of UK tech media coverage ie 10pc of tech companies account for 90pc of press coverage. Which means the other 90pc (ie 9,000 tech companies in the UK?) are all vying for that 10pc stump. Trouble is, given point 6 above, many PR companies will give the impression to the 90pc that they can eat significantly into the top 10pc’s coverage real estate.

9. The tech PR campaigns that win PR Week awards or similar are exceptions rather than the norm. The classic winning formula is usually Company X only spent Y on this campaign and generated coverage worth Z. This re-inforces the idea that all PR campaigns can achieve amazing results on small budgets. It has become a truism for marketing directors and PR Managers to say that PR is the most cost effective element of the marketing mix. And yet, certainly in the tech sector, PR has remained stuck on around 5pc share of client marketing budgets for as long as I can remember. With marketing budgets being cut, PR’s share of the pie would appear to be going down. Meanwhile, digital marketing continues to take an ever growing share of budget (12pc and rising says IDC).

10. Most people in tech PR hate media relations (or at best, would rather not have to do it, if given the choice). The reason people hate doing it is because they hate the response they get from journalists when they ring up to ask “did you get my press release”. However, unsurprising if they are simply perpetuating an industry-wide institutionalised behaviour (see point 5).

There are clearly other factors – but the reasons for Charles’ current perception of the PR business are connected to all of the points above.

Wittgenstein’s Poker: Why defining social media and PR won’t solve its problems


For those of a philosophic bent, one of the best books of recent times has been Wittgenstein’s Poker, by David Edmonds and John Eidinow, which provides a brilliant overview of two giants of 20th century thought, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper. (The title derives from the infamous meeting of Wittgenstein and Popper in room H3, King’s College Cambridge on 25th October 1946 when Wittgenstein allegedly brandished a hot poker at Popper over a fundamental philosophical disagreement.

The dispute between Wittgenstein and Popper represents the major clash of philosophical opinion in the 20th century. In simple terms (if that is possible), Wittgenstein felt that philosophical problems were merely puzzles caused by the misuse of language. By analysing our use of language properly, we would dissolve away the issues. Popper violently disagreed with this view. For him, there were real problems, not mere puzzles that could be just explained away by language analysis. For Popper, Wittgenstein’s theories were the equivalent of intellectual navel gazing. And he was backed up in this by Bertrand Russell (who ironically was one of Wittgenstein’s early supporters). As Edmonds and Eidinow describe: “Russell had pioneered the analysis of concepts, and, like Popper, thought that this could often clarify issues. But also like Popper he believed precision was not the be-all and end-all. Popper pointed out that scientists managed to accomplish great things despite working with a degree of linguistic ambiguity. Russell averred that problems would not disappear even if each word were carefully defined.

By way example, Russell used the following anecdote. He was cycling to Winchester and stopped to ask a shopkeeper the shortest way. The shopkeeper called to a man in the back of the premises:

“Gentleman wants to know the shortest way to Winchester”

“Winchester?” an unseen voice replied.

“Aye.”

“Way to Winchester?”

“Aye.”

“Shortest way?”

Aye.

“Dunno”

The connection with today’s social media and PR world is that I keep seeing a lot of Socratic questions being asked eg What is PR? What is social media? The underlying implication being that if we could simply define what social media and PR are then we are well on the way to promised land. However, I’m with Popper and Russell. We can spend our time defining terms all we like – the problems to be solved won’t go away. Namely, how can we best solve client’s marketing and PR problems for them in a profitable manner. Continuing to obsess over definitions isn’t going to help.

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