As a publicist, hearing about Google’s updated link scheme earlier this month made me a little nervous. Basically, the search gurus at Google announced that links within press releases should all be “nofollowed” – a search term meaning that the hyperlink shouldn’t influence the target page’s ranking in search engines. The reasoning? Google equates press releases to being solely self-promotional.
I have to say that I don’t think of press releases as solely self-promotional pieces, but rather informational resource hubs. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend to clients that we issue them. But, as a result of this announcement, the PR industry is in a panic trying to figure out what to do with all their links and what to link (if anything) moving forward. At 451, we have a team of search marketing pros to help us navigate through this change. I sat down with our EVP of Digital Marketing, Francis Skipper, and walked away with three main takeaways:
1. Don’t panic. Keep doing what you’re doing. As long as you aren’t being spammy (sending out countless self-promotional releases a week) or trying to manipulate the system, you should be ok.
2.As always, link when things are appropriate and relevant. If your release is about a new product, link to the new product. Also, don’t be scared to link people to press rooms for more information or contact purposes. Don’t link randomly just to boost your SEO value.
3.We haven’t seen any negative effects. And we hopefully won’t, because we don’t use spammy or manipulative tactics.
This is the philosophy we’re sticking with at 451. Obviously, if our search team notices any changes that negatively affect our work, we’ll immediately react and adjust accordingly.
What has your brand our agency done in response to Google’s announcement? Feel free to leave a comment below or tweet us @451heat or @karynmartin
As publicists we work tirelessly to get our clients the best possible coverage. We strategize, develop messaging, media train, customize pitches, nurture relationships, and capitalize on trends, but at a certain point it is out of our control. We have to trust the writers we work with, and they in turn have to trust their editors. At the end of the day, you’ve done your best, you hold your breath and wait – maybe an hour, a day, or six months for the coverage to publish. Many times, the final article doesn’t make your client happy: why did I only get one quote? Why wasn’t our company named first in the list of market players? Why wasn’t the picture of our product used? Where is my site link?, etc. And then it’s our job to explain, reason, and justify why certain editorial decisions were made. Sometimes, we are lucky enough to gain insight from the writer we worked with, but often the editor or photo editor doing the final layout took liberties with which content was included and how it was displayed (just doing their job), leaving us without an explanation. I’m here to warn everyone – publicists and journalists – that this could get worse for all of us moving forward simply because of two little words:Responsive design.
The Future of Online Publishing: Responsive Design
Normally, I only care about website design on a surface level – my agency, 451 Marketing, has an entire creative team that specializes in that. However, in the February 17thWooden Horse Magazine media News e-newsletter, Meg Weaver suggested that publicists should be worried about the editorial implications of responsive design. This technology optimizes website layout and content for the reader based on how it is being consumed (tablet, PC, mobile, laptop) and is quickly being adopted by publishers. Weaver reports, “Over the next few months, all of Hearst Digital Media‘s titles are getting a new look, starting with RoadandTrack.com and TownandCountryMag.com.” Similarly, BostonGlobe.comreleased its responsive design site in December 2011, and in October 2012, TIME.com became the first global news site to roll out a fully responsive redesign optimized for mobile and tablet browsing. Responsive design: It’s the future of site design and the future of publishing.
Why worry? Editorial Implications of Responsive Design
Weaver suggests that what has started as something helpful for the reader could lead to the following, “Later, a magazine could create several different versions of an article with different headlines and images to appeal to different site visitors.” Not so bad, right? Think again. Weaver predicts that if the content is “learning” readers’ interests and providing them with what they like, eventually readers will cease to be challenged, enlightened or inspired. “And soon, the current problems magazine publishers face with dwindling print circulations, may soon seem quaint in view of plummeting website visitors.” This is concerning, but worse is that publishers without a smart editorial plan in place will effectively make designers and developers into editors.
What happens when you take content written for a website and “shift” it to display on smaller screens? Content gets moved, hidden, or chopped altogether. This Content Strategy and Responsive Design post from Brain Traffic’s Sean Tubridy goes into further detail. How does a designer know which few keywords to keep in the headline across layouts? How does a developer know which image is the most compelling? Side bars – forget about it – those will likely be dropped altogether. Jared M. Spool, founder of User Interface Engineering, outlines in this article the key stages to, “Devising a Strategy for Responsive Design.” If the editorial process ends with the final layout of a single article across each device being determined by someone without editorial experience, ultimately the content, the reader, the writer, and even the publicist will suffer. The scenario I described at the start of this post will become more frequent and likely be more egregious for the brands we represent. One last caveat, there’s the fact that advertisers (who keep publishers in business) aren’t up to speed yet with technological requirements of responsive design. Now, I think we can all see the implications of this hiccup.
– See more at: http://pubclub.org/node/618#sthash.zv8nXTPg.dpuf
This morning I attended the latest Masters’ Institute Series event by the Publicity Club of New England #PCNE titled, “PR and the Complex Investor Relations Path.” On the panel was: David Calusdian, EVP, Sharon Merrill Assoc.; Howard Berkenblit, partner, Sullivan & Worcester and Maria Scurry, VP Global PR, QlikTech. Maria kicked off the panel with one of my favorite comments of the entire event, “It’s critical for PR to manage expectations. Too often at smaller companies management thinks that filing an IPO means that even though no one really knows us now, soon everyone will know our name! Ummm… No!”
There are three phases of an Initial Public Offering (IPO): quiet period, waiting period, and effectiveness. If you’re a publicist and have been through an IPO before or represented a public company you know how frustrating it can be to experience a quiet period. It’s our job to hype the company and its products, yet this is strictly forbidden. What is allowed is communication that is standard for the company’s normal course of business. So, here’s the good news, if you are in a position to know that in six months – one year your company will want to go public, then start setting the bar for company announcements and news high now. This way when you head into your quiet period and want to issue news the SEC looks at your track record and sees that it’s perfectly normal. (Awesome tip, Maria!)
“The Bible” a.k.a your S1. Once it’s filed it’s a publicist’s best friend. It’s a legal document, but marketing and PR are involved (or should be) in its development. Any questions reporters have and you can point them directly to your S1 link. What happens though when you have an article in the works before you know that you are going public and then all of a sudden you are in a quiet period? It happens! Hopefully you can get your company or your executive gracefully out of the situation without actually saying to the reporter- you can print this, because of our new legal situation. Sometimes it can’t be helped though and as in the case of Google’s Sept. 2004 article in Playboy that had to be added as an appendix to its S1. Check it out (no pics here!): http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1288776/000119312504139655/ds1a.htm
Information about Google has been published in an article appearing in the September 2004 issue of Playboy Magazine and entitled “Playboy Interview: Google Guys.” The text of the article, which is included in this prospectus as Appendix B, contains information derived from an interview of Larry and Sergey conducted in April 2004, prior to the filing of our registration statement of which this prospectus is a part. The article presented certain statements about our company in isolation and did not disclose many of the related risks and uncertainties described in this prospectus. As a result, the article should not be considered in isolation and you should make your investment decision only after reading this entire prospectus carefully.
Social media is making lawyer’s lives much more difficult when it comes to IPOs, but the consensus on the panel was that things are evolving. Certainly if your CEO doesn’t tweet normally then starting to do so during the IPO process is a really bad idea. At the end of the day the most common mistake executives and publicists make is thinking of an IPO as a sprint, something to get through, and then it’s back to business. The reality is that everything changes once your company goes public and it’s critical to have a new, strong, communications strategy in place that will take you into the future. If nothing else, our panelists suggest that as you participate in and help manage PR through the IPO process you should: Be thoughtful. Talk to your lawyers. Keep pushing and asking questions!
A big thanks to all of the panelists today for lending their time and insights!
This morning I attended yet another amazing New England Publicity Club Masters Institute event. Today’s topic focused on the procurement process of RFPs and looked at “What Makes a Successful Agency Relationship?” Both in-house and agency people were in the room and on the panel which made it easy to see where we have mindshare. First, when it comes to RFPs most of us feel the same way—we hate them! Second, the “P” in RFP should really stand for passion, because that’s what companies are looking for from their potential agencies. The good news is that most agencies are loaded with it! Here is a quick list of tips for people on both sides of the RFP process for how to make it successful and relatively painless:
Be open. The more open you are to answering questions from agencies before their deadline to submit the better quality responses you’ll get.
Be prepared for some pain. Managing the RFP process requires juggling a lot including your executives’ expectations. Try to get their buy in ahead of time that you can call the shots until it gets down to the finalists.
Brevity is key. Keep your RFPs to 1.5 pages long. This lets agencies be creative.
Know the players. Ask to meet the team that will work on your account. They are the ones that will be in the trenches with you and the ones you’ll need to trust.
Don’t ask for the pie in the sky. Bold ideas are worthless unless they can be executed within budget and provide measurable ROI.
Don’t compare on price, but value. This is the hardest tip to implement, but the most important. Ask any client with a long-standing agency relationship and they’ll tell you that what makes it work over time is chemistry, trust and the value the agency brings. The most successful partnerships aren’t about the dollars and cents.
Demonstrate passion. How can you do this on a piece of paper? Connect with your contact in every way possible before the deadline. Ask questions, ask for a call or a meeting, connect on LinkedIn, etc. Showing interest early and often is a guaranteed way to demonstrate your agency is passionate about getting the business.
Be compassionate. Understand that your contact might be dealing with internal politics that prevents them from creating and executing the RFP in the way they know best.
Don’t give away the farm. If the RFP asks you for a three month plan and a press list then raise the red flag. This is outside of the acceptable boundaries of a RFP and it might mean the company is looking for free ideas.
Bring the whole team. Don’t just bring the head of business development and a few directors to your pitch meeting. I know it’s scary, but bring the team that will work on the business—even the young ones!
Be creative, but not irrational. Make sure you can execute on the creative ideas. Keep in mind budget, timeframe, and demonstrating ROI.
RFPs FOR DUMMIES
Double check that your “find and replace” removed all of the past company name references from your new proposal.
Spell “public relations” correctly. Don’t forget the “l” in public or the “s” on relations.
Don’t use case examples that are older than your cell phone (think two-year contract).
Many of the helpful tips I’ve listed here came directly from members of today’s panel. And they are:
My commute Monday was typical—I spent most of it reading the Metro paper. The advice column featured an article by Dan Schawbel about “The real value of internships.” It’s worth a read if you are a student wrestling with how to secure an interview for an internship. I receive tons of resumes everyday with students hoping to apply for our internship program and it’s only a select few that we’ll ask to come in. But getting the interview is only step one. How do you nail the interview once you have it?
Here are the top must-do’s to secure an interview and land an internship:
Send a personalized cover letter, proofed resume that immediately demonstrates your personal connection to the company (do we have a mutual contact, have you worked with one of our clients or one of their competitors, did someone personally refer you to our agency, etc.)
Display the “right” attitude (self-starter, team player, and enthusiastic with a hunger to know it all). Use these terms to describe yourself in the interview and be prepared to back up the descriptions with specific examples of past projects or jobs that highlight these qualities.
Seems like common sense, but you would be surprised how many folks walk into an interview not knowing who the agency’s clients are. Make the effort and proactively share client-specific ideas or questions to demonstrate your knowledge. Eg. “I noticed from your Website that you currently represent client X, I saw from a recent press release that they are growing in area Y. Based on a few things I’ve read lately about area Y it seems the market is facing challenge A. Have you seen this as well? Did you discuss it yet with client X? A possible proactive pitch campaign to address challenge A could be <insert SMART idea here>.” *This isn’t about having the perfect pitch, it’s about showing that you already care about what is most important to the agency (client service, of course).
Follow up with a hand-written thank you note to everyone who takes the time to meet with you (or at least your primary interviewer).
Once you land the internship, how do you translate your experience into a job? It’s about the effort and interest you invest while in the office. Many times you’ll be one of a few interns that is only in-office a few days a week. How can you stand out from the rest:
Volunteer for assignments and ask questions!
Work on mastering the arts of: multitasking, writing and verbal communications.
Always think about the strategy behind your task and ask “what’s the bigger picture?”
Maintain a high-level of organization and manage deadlines.
Take the time to get to know the full time staffers—you want them to give you a personal reference later, right? Get to know them personally then!
When you make a mistake (you will, it’s ok- we all do!) let your manger know immediately and be prepared to with ideas on how to remedy the situation.