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The “chat-ification” of our culture is now completely out-of-control.
More than 800 million people use Facebook messenger each month.
100 million people use Snapchat each day.
And people between the ages of 18-24 send, 3,200 text messages…PER MONTH.
Chatting is, without question, one of the most popular functions people use on mobile devices.
I’m not here today to question that indisputable fact.
But, I am here to talk about how all that chatting, texting and snapping will impact the PR industry in other ways.
Namely, our ability to present and persuade.
Here’s what I’m getting at.
Think about a young person growing up today, going to college right now. What’s the primary way they communicate? Texting. Chat apps. Snapchat.
What percentage of their daily communication is done this way? 50 percent? 75 percent? 90 percent? (don’t laugh–I’m probably not far off with that last one)
Point is: Young people are spending A LOT of time communicating via chat. So much so, that they’re no longer practicing communicating the old-fashioned way: Face-to-face.
Big deal, you say. It’s the evolution of communication, you say.
Sure–you might be right about that. But, it’s also coming at the expense of our public speaking and presenting skills.
And that’s a big deal.
Think about your workplace. Think about what happens during your day.
Meetings with your boss.
Meetings with your team.
Meetings with your direct reports.
Most people’s days are stuffed with meetings. All kinds of them.
And what do you do at meetings? You don’t Snapchat the person sitting next to you. You TALK to them. You DISCUSS your ideas. You BRAINSTORM…OUT LOUD.
These are things that happen in meetings.
You know what else happens in meetings?
Budgets get set.
Ideas get pitched–and moved forward.
Teammates persuade managers that their idea will make the client successful (and three months later, they’re promoted).
Point being: Professional life happens in meetings and in-person–not via chat.
I think all this time we’re spending chatting and snapping is going to come at a cost. It’s going to start impacting our presentation and persuasion skills.
Because you have to practice presenting and persuading to stay proficient–just like anything else. Fall out of practice, and you get rusty. And if you’re rusty with your presentation and persuasion skills in the PR world… well, that’s not a great place to be, my friends.
So, I’m very curious to see how this plays out. Especially among younger folks since they’re the power users of chat apps and tools right now.
As always, time will tell. But, it’s certainly going to be interesting to watch the developments.
In my perusing of Linked last week, I came across this post from Nancy Shenker, CEO of the ONSwitch.
In the post, Nancy makes a claim we’ve all heard thousands of times:
News releases are good for SEO and “Google Cred.”
Except, every time I hear that, I want to call BS.
Now, I’m not hear to get into a discussion about the ins and outs of technical SEO mechanisms.
I’m sure news releases–when properly “optimized”–do generate “traffic” to corporate web sites. I’m sure it can and does happen every day.
But here’s my question: Is it MEANINGFUL traffic?
And here’s my next question: Why does it matter?
And here’s one more: How does it move the needle in the PR and communications realm in terms or awareness or brand-building?
If you’re like me, you can’t really answer any of those questions well.
So, I ask again: Do garden-variety news releases really help with SEO?
The answer: Yes (technically), and no (I’ll explain).
You see, I think it’s high time we give up on this long-standing myth.
Here’s my reasoning:
Again, I’m not arguing that news releases can’t drive traffic to your site. I’m sure many people have examples they could share. What I’m saying is this: Is that traffic meaningful? In other words, who are the people clicking through to your site, and what are they doing once they get there? In other words, are your customers really performing keyword searches, which lead them to your news release, which lead them to your web site, which lead them to eventually purchase something. Isn’t that what we want, ideally?
I mean, I hate to state the obvious, but aren’t press releases written for, you know, the press? I know brands share them on social channels. I know they share them in e-newsletters from time to time. But, if you’re looking at writing a press release, the media is usually your audience. The release is just a tool to convince media to write a meaningful story about your organization, its products, its mission, etc. etc. etc. So again, what kind of meaningful traffic are those releases driving if they’re aimed at the media in the first place?
Instead of relying on news releases to drive SEO value, why not put more time and energy into developing content that actually has a chance at driving true SEO value? Like a blog post on a niche topic that your customers actually care about in your industry? Wouldn’t that make more sense? Wouldn’t that drive the kind of traffic you want (customers who care about certain topics vs. random people clicking on a news release) within the actual marketing funnel?
Some things in the world of PR make me scratch my head.
Trade publication media kits, for example.
When researching a new trade publication or outlet to pitch stories on behalf of your client, this is typically your first stop.
You need to determine audience size. You need to see if the demographics match up–and if this is truly a publication the audience you want to reach is reading. Basically, you need to review a bunch of numbers and make sure they align with what you’re looking for.
Except here’s the problem: Media outlets aren’t very good about giving you useful information.
Sure, they give you *information*–it’s just not the *right* information.
What am I talking about?
Let’s look at some garden-variety numbers media outlets typically share in media kits:
I’m happy you have 7.5 million email subscribers but what would be much more helpful is sharing your open and click-thru rates. I realize those are more prized numbers, but they really would help as we make informed decisions (gotta think that would help on the ad side, too). I don’t want to know how many people clicked “sign me up”–I want to know how many people are actually opening your e-newsletter and reading the content each day/week/month.
We’re thrilled you have five million monthly visitors to your web site. Really, we are. But, instead, why couldn’t you tell me more about the percentage of traffic that returns to your site. Or, what about time spent on site? Monthly visitors are fine–but I’m looking for data that tells me if people are really reading your content, and if they’re coming back week over week, day over day.
We’re ecstatic that your Facebook page has 67 million fans. That’s awesome! However, in today’s internet age, that number is basically useless. Instead, why couldn’t you tell me about the typical engagement rate for a post? Or, what about the percentage of traffic you refer to your web site from Facebook?
Again, media outlets are providing some good information in their media kits. But, for me, I’d just like to see different data. More meaningful statistics. Information I can use to make more informed decisions.
Isn’t that the whole point of the kit?
Today, I’m headed to Winona for my bi-annual pilgrimage where I speak to a slew of PR classes on campus (part of my Alumni Board work). This time around, I’m also chatting with the Winona St. PRSSA chapter. They asked me to come prepared to talk a bit about job search strategies for senior and juniors.
It’s a topic I don’t really give a ton of thought to these days–for obvious reasons. Then again, I do speak to a ton of students and dole out advice, when asked, to twenty-somethings fairly often.
But, for this crew (my alma mater), I wanted to offer up my best thinking. I didn’t want to just give out the garden-variety tips to these kids. After all, it’s kinda my job to look out for these WSU grads. Also: I get a huge kick out of it.
So, I spent the last few weeks thinking about more creative and truly effective job searching tips for today’s college senior. Here’s what I came up with:
I think one of the biggest mistakes I made coming out of school was that I just looked for “a job.” I just wanted to break in. I really didn’t care how I did it. And, at the time, jobs were tough to come by, so I really just wanted to get that first job in communications. But, I wish I would have looked for “the job.” I wish I would have put more thought and effort into identifying that first job I really wanted. I think, by doing that, you can put all your time and effort into trying to win THE JOB, instead of just trying to get any old job. See the difference?
Most students will start polishing up–or start forming–a LinkedIn profile by their junior or senior years. That’s table stakes in today’s social and job searching environment. Why not take the next step and really focus on polishing those areas of your LinkedIn profile that your “competition” may not be doing. I’m talking about areas like: 1) Recommendations–just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you can’t have recommendations! Potential folks to ask: Professors, fellow students you’ve worked with on projects, and intern supervisors; 2) Personal info/interests–Might seem inocuous, but it might be a conversation starter for that first interaction with a recruiter; 3) Experience–If you have enough relevant experience through internships and student work, consider ditching your part-time jobs (waitressing, etc.). Focus on the work you’ve done that IS relevant.
Here’s the thing about being a new grad–everyone wants to help you. Why? Because we were all in your shoes once. But, here’s the other thing about being a new grad–it wears off pretty quickly. So, take advantage of the label while you can. As a new grad, I think you’ll find very few people will turn you down for coffee. They just won’t. It’s a little bit of guilt. And, its a little bit of “we’ve all been there, so I need to help this person out.” So, use the label while you can. Ask people to coffee you probably wouldn’t think about asking. You might be surprised who says “yes.”
The big secret most “guidance counselors” don’t tell you about that first job: You’re most likely to find it through your network–not on a job board. So, time to start building that network. Begin by identifying 10 people in the market you want to work in, who have jobs you might want to have someday. Find those people, and figure out how to connect with them via social networks. Do they have Twitter accounts? If yes, look for ways to engage them there (common interests are a good start!). Look them up on LinkedIn–think about asking for a connection (in a meaningful way–again, look for connections points). Do they have a blog? Comment on it–but look to add value. Are they involved with PRSA? Go to a PRSA event and stick out your hand and introduce yourself. So many ways to use social to meet people now–you actually have no excuses here.
Continue to build that network by scheduling two coffee meet-ups per week. Get that momentum going by leaning on other alumni who have recently graduate–they’re probably most likely to say “yes” to a random coffee ask. Then, once you start meeting with these alumni, ask them for 2-3 people they can introduce you to. Voila! You have an instant list of 8-10 people you can meet for coffee. Keep asking for the 2-3 introductions, and you’ll be surprised how many people you can meet in a summer.
The no-brainer, obviously, is PRSA. Find your local PRSA chapter upon graduating, join (it’s cheaper, as a recent grad, as I recall), and VOLUNTEER! Good committee to join out of the gate: Programming (meet a ton of people), student relations (coordinate student events), or membership (great way to meet PRSA members!). You might also look at: IABC, AMA, Social Media Breakfast, or, in Minneapolis, MIMA. They key here is not just to join one of these organizations–it’s to raise your hand and volunteer. Might be uncomfortable at first, since you won’t know a damn person. But, it’ll get a lot easier as you go. Trust me–I’ve done this on more than one occasion and it’s paid off every time.
Make no mistake about it–finding that first job in PR is an all-out battle. Against your friends. Against your fellow grads. And against everyone else who is applying for PR jobs across the country. How many resumes do you think agencies in Minneapolis receive from new grads each year? Hundreds, for sure. So, creativity is at a premium. How are YOU going to stand out amongst 250 resumes? Start by doing something no one else is doing. Like Dawn Siff, who alledgedly created the first-ever six-second resume on Vine.
Or, what about Katie Briggs, who used an infographic as her resume to land a job in advertising.
Now, do all these creative approaches lead to dream jobs right out of school? Of course not. But, they definitely get noticed. And they undoubtedly lead to some kind of job, and most likely a stepping stone to bigger things down the road.
The online corporate newsroom has undergone big shifts in the way it looks and operates in the last 15 years–for sure.
Remember when online corporate newsrooms used to consist of a list of news releases and nothing more?
Heck, many corporate online newsrooms still DO look like that.
And therein lies the problem.
The cold, hard fact is this: Corporate online newsrooms really haven’t evolved as much as we’d like to think in the PR industry.
Take Kohl’s, for example. Here’s a glimpse at their newsroom home page.
Pretty basic, right? But, OK in the grand scheme of things. Until you click on “Read more.” Then you get this.
Yep–that’s a Google doc of the full news release. Now, I’m not hear to lay into Kohl’s. But, as an example, this highlights the current state of a decent amount of large-company newsrooms. They’re serviceable from a media standpoint, but are they optimized to serve a bigger purpose and multiple audiences?
On the other hand, I see a handful of companies that are taking a relatively progressive approach to the corporate online newsroom. These brands are thinking about their newsroom differently. They’re thinking about it as a place to house news for the media, sure. But, they’re also thinking about it as a content hub where they can share stories via social, e-newsletters and other forms of media across the enterprise. They’re thinking about it as a key storytelling device. And, they’re thinking about it as a multi-media hub.
This more broad-based approach to a newsroom makes a lot of sense for a few different reasons:
Heck, even the media don’t really enjoy reading news releases–it’s just a necessary function of the job.
Think about it: When was the last time you saw a friend share a news release from a Facebook post of a big company? Yeah, that’s what I thought. With social being such a big part of the PR “ecosystem” now, this is a big angle.
News releases are inherently and historically text-driven (again, reference Google doc news release above). Blog posts, on the other hand, tend to be more visual. They include big visuals of people and and products. They include infographics. They include embedded videos. All things people regularly consume on the more visual web of 2016 (and, all the things media are looking for now, too, by the way).
Now, not every large company is taking this approach. But, I want to highlight three that are–and doing it quite well.
OK, so at first glance, Walmart flies in the face of my whole thesis. They do actually post news releases to their site. But, they do it in a way that looks and feels like a blog post. See below.
What’s more, the feel of the site is much different than a garden-variety newsroom. Take a peek. Big visuals. Limited text. Actually, it looks a lot like a Pinterest or Instagram page.
Back to the content. With most “releases”, Walmart takes another key step outside of posting them here. It links to another, more “fully-featured” blog post around the same topic at the bottom of each release. In this case (see below), it’s a more consumer-facing post about how folks can help in the fight against hunger (which Walmart is supporting). Nice way to bring the “news” to life for customers.
Best Buy posts zero news releases to its site (at least as far as I can tell). Go ahead–take a peek at bestbuy.com. What they do instead is post news in the form of blog posts on its corporate site.
These clearly look more like stories/blog posts than news releases. But, they are also clearly news-driven (read: PR-driven). Another example:
Here’s the media play–check out the bottom of each post. It lists a media contact and the ability to download other media assets. Smart and slick. This way, BBY gets best of both worlds–a story they can share across different channels, and a story they can pitch to media (and a story media can FIND on their site).
Sure, Starbucks technically post news releases to its newsroom. But, it feels more like a blog than a “newsroom. Just look at this recent post about its newest stores:
But not all the posts to the newsroom are in “news release” style. Sometimes, Starbucks is finding a way to get creative with more mundane and recurring corporate news: Such as when the CEO speaks at the annual shareholder meeting. Starbucks turned this annual opportunity into a short post with an interesting graphic:
The post also included a clip of CEO, Howard Schultz, talking about values-based leadership.