Refining and Maximizing Your Pitching Strategy

As media budgets are tightening and new social media sites are popping up left and right, they are varying the ways we can connect with reporters. We as PR professionals are constantly changing our media relations strategy. Tuesday night, three members of our public relations team here at 451 Marketing, attended a panel hosted by the Pub Club of New England, where several members of the Boston media unraveled a part of that equation and lent some insights from “the other side”, about how we can improve our pitching content and strategy such as how to get that elusive product coverage. On the panel were Jim Finkle (@techwriterjim),technology and cyber security reporter for Reuters; Katie Johnston (@ktkjohnston), business reporter for the Boston Globe; Erin Kutz (@erkutz), associate editor for; Lisa van der Pool (@lvanderpool), CBS Boston contributor and reporter for the Boston Business Journal and Joe Roche (@BostonNewsGuy), news assignment manager for WCVB-TV.



 Below, our team shares a few key takeaways:
  1. Deadline Awareness: All the panelists emphasized how important it is for PR professionals to be aware of publication deadlines. While PR professionals are always eager to get news out to media ASAP, even non-breaking news, it’s beneficial to do your homework and be aware of the recipients’ schedules – which can vary based on their type of media.Joe noted that while early morning is the best time to reach him with news for broadcast, the worst times are when he first gets into the office (7 a.m.) and right before they go on air.  As for the print dailies, late morning or early afternoon is the best time to capture their attention.  Lisa pointed out that the Boston Business Journal’s deadline day is Wednesday, so it’s best to avoid pitching on that day. Katie recommended not contacting the Globe at 3 or 4 p.m.  While we always double check the time before sending out a pitch, this is a good reminder to make sure we do that every time!
  2. Product News Pitching –One attendee brought up a good inquiry – since a popular announcement for clients is new product news, what is the best way to entice the media to cover them?   The panelists confirmed something we’ve heard many times: they will rarely cover straight product news.  However, there are a few ways to make the information interesting to the media:Tie the news into company strategy. Does the new product reflect a recent shift in what the company is doing as a whole?Explore other angles related to the company.  Is there an interesting story about the CEO or a non-profit initiative the company is doing?
  3. Going beyond your client list when pitching trends – When asked what makes a really strong pitch, Katie made a great point that a lot of us lose sight of when writing trend pitches. According to her, using examples in your pitch from companies or brands that aren’t your clients not only shows a reporter that you’ve done your research and know the industry, but establishes your pitch as an actual trend; rather than merely news from your client. As PR professionals, we are constantly getting pressure from clients to get media coverage and it’s easy to put our blinders on and only focus on using their examples. Katie’s advice is a great reminder that looking at the bigger picture and staying on top of industry news pays off and gives you a better shot at your pitch becoming a story.
  4. “On Background” versus “Off the Record” – One question that came up at the event was whether or not to advise clients to say things as “off the record.” As PR practitioner, our general rule of thumb is that nothing is ever off the record; however the panel seemed to be much more laid back about that question (or maybe we just had an especially lovely handful of journalists at this event!). Katie then explained to the audience the difference between “on background” and “off the record.” “On background” means that your client can offer information; however, saying upfront that it’s on background means that the journalist won’t attribute them as the source for the information. Depending on the journalist, they’ll either find a different source for the information or leave it as anonymous. When advising our clients, however, we think we’ll still stick with our “nothing is off the record” mantra and play it safe.
  5. Twitter Pitching versus Email Pitching – More often than not, the subject of how social media affects journalism comes up at these types of events. Internally at agencies, Twitter seems to be the “next big thing” when connecting with journalists, and Laura had even been to “Twitter Pitching” seminars. However, we were so glad a member of the audience asked the panelists if they like to be pitched via Twitter because the resounding answer was “no!” They urged PR pros to stick with “old fashioned” email and phone. That’s not to say that they aren’t on Twitter, though – they are there and they are listening. Most panelists use Twitter as a news source and say it’s an especially useful tool for following influencers in their beat’s space. So, note to fellow PR folks, get those execs on Twitter and talkin’!


We would like to thank Katie, Lisa, Jim, Joe and Erin for sharing their insights and helping us to improve the way we reach out to and connect with them and to the Pub Club for organizing such a great panel!


Were there any takeaways that surprised you? If you are on the receiving end of PR pitches, do you have any tips to add? Check out the event with #pubclubofne hashtag and tweet us at @451heat.


-Alice DuBois @aedubois, Meredith D’Agostino @ladymusic, and Laura Christo @LauraChristo


Google Social Search & Pinterest Pointers for Brands

Top Story: 
Google Integrates Google+ into Search Results

As I was scouting out a chili recipe online the other day, I was somewhat surprised to see so many Google results from people I actually know. Who knew that blogger’s chili was so popular that their image is the first result to come up on Google Images? That’s when I realized it had begun: Google had integrated Google+ into search. Up until now, I, like many other Google users, trusted that the search results I was getting on Google really were the top search results. But the other day, I quickly understood that the results I was getting for my chili search were showing up because I was logged in to my Google account. Results were showing up personalized just for me, not only from users I follow on Google+, but also for users it is recommended I follow on Google+. The thing is, I’m not very social on Google+. The social content that’s important to me can be found on Twitter and Facebook and most of the people I trust to get me that top chili recipe aren’t on Google+ just yet. Will the promise of your Google+ content showing up in the searches of others encourage you to use Google+ more actively? That’s certainly what Google hopes.

YouTube Preview Image

Many are upset that Google is choosing to promote content from its own service, despite the fact that it’s not necessarily the most relevant content to them. And if Google wants to be trusted as the most reputable search engine, they need to be providing the best results; not the results that cater to their own commercial means. Google will argue that Facebook doesn’t make its content publicly searchable and that Twitter ended their contract to incorporate real-time tweets into search results. But most of that information on Twitter is public, which means Google’s crawlers could easily be bringing relevant tweets to us in their results, too. But they’re not.

There is a bright side, though. Yes, if you’re logged into your Google account, personal search results will automatically show up. But you can easily toggle personal results off with just the click of a button. And I have a strong feeling that’s what most users will be doing.


Under the Radar: Google and the FTC

Speaking of Google, according to a report by Bloomberg, they may be in a little hot water with the FTC. Basically, Google’s expansion into the social space and the implications social search implications raise concerns about anti-competitive behavior – a.k.a. all Google, all the time. Other companies and agencies, including Twitter and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have spoken out about the narrowing of search results caused by the Search plus Your World feature. We’re looking forward to seeing how this plays out. Google has been criticized before for having selective results, and this could definitely have an impact on the results the search engine returns in the future.


Around the Hub: We Take it Back, MBTA

Last week we wrote about the MBTA missing out on a big PR and social opportunity by not endorsing a Tufts graduate student’s project to improve the design of an upcoming new T station location. Well, a few days after writing about this, the MBTA proved us wrong, launching its own initiative with Hubway.

Together, Hubway (the bike rental service) and the MBTA have launched the ‘MBTA + Boston Bikes Developer Challenge‘ that crowd-sources the creation of 2 different applications and a ‘visualization’. There will be a winner picked for each of the three categories, and the winner receives a one year membership to Hubway, a year of riding free on the T and passes to two food truck festivals. Those are some awesome prizes if you ask us!!

This is exactly what we thought the MBTA was missing out on doing – accessing Boston’s existing creative talent to build cool new stuff while gaining positive PR for working with its customers. The more initiatives the MBTA creates like this, the less the will be slammed on social media.

The three categories are as follows:

  • Applications Challenge: This challenge calls on developers to create applications using MBTA data such as real-time and schedules bus, subway, and commuter rail data, together with New Balance Hubway Live Station Inventory Data to create an app, website, or other software application that provides an innovative way to access MBTA and New Balance Hubway information in real-time.
  • Visualization Challenge: This challenge calls on developers to create a visualization of, “A day in the life of the MBTA and New Balance Hubway” using both MBTA and New Balance Hubway data such as  historical vehicle location, for the MBTA and Hubway origin-destination data.
  • Bonus Challenge Bikes, Lunch, & T Challenge– This Challenge calls on developers to create innovative applications that help hungry residents learn about, locate and get to Boston′s food trucks. This app, for web or mobile, would ideally include locations of the trucks, menus, and routing information on how to get to them by walking, T or New Balance Hubway.
So, if you’re a developer and want to travel Boston free for a year, get to work!


Tool of the Week: Pinterest

We’ll admit it: we’re addicted to Pinterest. In fact, it’s an obsession for some (we won’t name names) in our office. When it first came on the scene as a social tool to share images and ideas with our friends, we were on-board immediately.  Its integration with Facebook made it an awesome way to have a new conversation with existing contacts. And, due to its overwhelming popularity, Pinterest recently joined the illustrious list of the top ten social networks.

The mission of the company is simple enough: to connect everyone in the world through shared tastes and “things” they find interesting.  More recently, we’ve begun to think of Pinterest as a social tool for companies.  As an agency that focuses on consumer brands, having the ability to share images of your products and ideas that complement your brand in a visual way is a very appealing way for our clients to engage with their audience and help them picture their products in the home/in their closet/on their dinner table. Mashable recently released its top list of brands on Pinterest.  We put together our list of the top things we’ve seen brands do to leverage the hot new tool.

  1. Clearly Defined Boards: the brands do a great job of dividing their content into themed boards, allowing users to easily follow the types of content that they want to see from the brand.
  2. Stunning Images: people pin things they think are pretty.  Having high quality, beautiful images definitely make your pins more re-pinable.
  3. It’s All In the Details: well-written descriptions explaining the content and context of an image makes it easier for pinners to add to your pin and share with their followers.
  4. Complementary Content: just as with any good social media communication, adding complementary content in-line with the theme of your brand is a good call.  Don’t only talk about yourself: include content that contributes to the topic as a whole.
  5. Encouraging Users to Pin Brand Content: Some brands have started to run promotions and contests that ask entrants to pin content from the brand to their own boards for a chance to win a prize. We’ll likely be seeing more and more brand promotions on Pinterest in the near future.
  6. How-tos: Many brands are using Pinterest to show users how their fans use their product. For instance, Chobani has boards devoted to photos of dishes fans have created with their yogurt.
Whole Foods Market’s Pinterest page

What do you think of the new Google social search results? How does your brand use Pinterest to engage with customers? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet us at @451heat.


Are Your Facebook Ads Tired? 3 Quick Tips to Combat Ad Fatigue

As the prevalence of Facebook advertising continues to grow, more and more marketers are willing to spend on these ads. And I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t. The ads are well targeted, effective, and, most importantly, have a large audience. Facebook presents this unique opportunity of not only increasing awareness and branding, but also initiating engagement and fan creation.

The only problem with Facebook ads is that of Ad Fatigue. In general, people get tired of seeing the same ads again and again. Since people log into their accounts at least three to four times a day, they are bound to see the same ads multiple times. As a result, they are less likely to click on these ads. Facebook understands this phenomenon and reacts by decreasing the number of ad impressions. All these factors directly affect the click-through rate (CTR) which in turn affects the cost per click. Basically, now you’re stuck in a cycle where your ad impressions have decreased, the click-through rate has dropped, and the only way to improve is to increase the bid and/or budget.

So, how can you overcome the constant battle of Facebook ad fatigue? Similar to search engines, Facebook and its vast user base loves fresh content! You need to “freshen” up your ads every few days. Rotating the ads frequently will enhance their performance. Remember – the higher the click-through rate, the lower the cost per click. By refreshing your ads frequently, you’ll be able to maintain the same impression share at the same cost.

Here are some quick tips to keep your ads fresh:

  • Images: Make sure you have at least two images ready for every ad. Rotate the images every few days to avoid ad fatigue. Use/test images that are known to do well on Facebook – company logos, headshots, product photos, and happy people. An image is the most important feature of a Facebook ad. Therefore, change the image as frequently as possible to prolong the lifespan of your ad copy.
  • Headline: Every time you notice a drop in CTR, change the ad headline. Use a different call-to-action. Ask a question. Use the brand name in the headline. Test and find out what clicks best with your audience. This might seem to be a minor tweak, but can definitely help boost the CTR.
  • Ad Copy: Similar to search, always perform A/B testing. Test out at least two different versions of ad copy at the same time. Ask questions. Use a strong call-to-action. Put segment-targeted language high in the body text. Ask users to ‘like’ your brand on Facebook. Often, short ad copy (<90 characters) outperforms  longer copy(>90 characters). Most importantly, replace the low performing ad with a new contender.

These are some tricks we’ve found useful in fighting Ad Fatigue. How often do you refresh your ads? How do you deal with this problem?


How Much Time Do We Actually Spend on Social Media?

Last week I found an interesting article on Social Media Today, “How Much Time Should I Spend on Social Media,” posted by Rachel Strella. I posted it to the @451Heat Twitter feed and was surprised at the feedback it received. There were a lot of comments with a range of opinions – a couple of people said that they spend their whole day using social media while others said that they really couldn’t measure how much time they spend.

The conversation really got me thinking – for many people in our increasingly digital world, social media is part of the daily routine. There are so many tools and tricks of the trade to make the process of engaging in social media easier and faster.

Personally, I spend about three hours a day on social media. I have a routine where I seek content in the morning to schedule though Hootsuite, my favorite platform for streamlining Twitter, Facebook, and now Google+. The majority of my time is spent on gathering content. I have a process where I like to ask questions and engage our followers rather than just giving them a link to view. This allows me to build and maintain relationships with them.

Certain tools, like the Hootlet extension and the Evernote extension, help to make my time on social media more efficient by creating an ‘easy button’ that gathers the important information while giving me the option to add my own thoughts.

Social media can be fun – but it can also be distracting. I like to Google everything. If there is something I see that might not be the right fit for @451Heat and it’s something that I can post to my personal Twitter or Facebook, email to the whole office, or it’s something that a client can post to their social media feeds, I’ll share it because it’s more efficient to get it off my plate right then and there versus going back to try to find it later. While that may add more interruptions to my day, it’s important, because for those of us who spend our whole day on social media – it is key to be timely, relevant, and consistent.

Since social media is an integral part of my day, for both work and personal engagement, I found the data below to be an interesting find. The report, which was released yesterday by comScore, shows what percentage of time is spent on social media throughout the world. According to the report, we spend an average of 1 of every 5 minutes on social media.

There are certain tools that can help you work smarter, track your time spent, and monitor your engagement with your audience. The key to managing your time spent on social media is balance and quality. Balance between a streamlined process, quality content, and building and maintaining relationships. This could be all or just part of your day depending on what you do.

What is your favorite social media site and how much time do you really spend on that site? We would love your feedback!

Thoughts on “Social Marketing to the Business Customer”

451 Marketing prides itself on using inbound marketing solutions for its clients. Likewise, new media guru, author and speaker, Paul Gillin, co-authored his third book titled, Social Marketing to the Business Customer with Eric Schwartzman. This book focuses on the importance of using social marketing to facilitate B2B sales and relationships.

Typically, one would assume that B2C companies would be more active on social media than B2B companies; however, Gillin cites that in late 2009, 81 percent of B2B companies maintained company profiles on social networking sites while only 67 percent of B2C companies were doing so. After reading the first chapter of his book, the reasons why seemed obvious.

B2B businesses can thrive on cost-effective social marketing for a number of reasons. First off, it is all about substance. For a company like Dell whose customers are spending millions of dollars in a single sale, there is no need to waste time and money on glitzy consumer profiles, and fancy advertising. Social marketing brings knowledge sharing and expertise to the forefront, which is what B2B customers are really looking for.

Through a social online presence, B2B companies are able to humanize their brands.  When a customer is having problems with a product, he doesn’t want to waste time waiting for a support hotline. He wants to talk directly to the engineers and designers who will understand his specific needs and tailor advice to his particular situation. Allowing customers and experts to freely discuss a product’s shortcomings, and celebrate its successes creates a succinct community that gives the company a personality, and expresses its values. This is especially important for many B2B companies that might come off as cold, heartless, technology corporations. We’ve all heard about companies’ reputations getting slashed online. by angry customers, which obviously is a scary risk, but Gillin thinks it’s well worth it. By taking the risk to empower customers, the company shows confidence and transparency, and humanizes its brand.

Among the many strategies of social marketing, Gillin cites lead-generation as the “Holy Grail.” Focusing on the customers who are actually looking for a certain product, or answer is what inbound marketing is all about. Thus, company blogs are the number one way to put your company at the forefront of a customer’s search. Producing valuable content about a company’s services and products shows commitment to the brand, and to its customers. Strategically using keywords on company blogs, and producing continuous content can optimize the blogs search results and position a company as a thought leader. Gillen quotes Marcom Director at Indium, Rick Short, who says lead generation means, “converting content to contacts to cash.” Companies gain respect by participating in industry-related conversations.

Social marketing is based on cultivating solid customer relationships.  “When you think of it, being helpful is the essence of a good human relationship,” says Gillin. So if your B2B business is yet to be sold on the benefits of social marketing, check out Gillin and Schwartzman’s latest book and you will understand why you should be involved with social marketing.

-Rebecca Loya, 451 Marketing