Zone5ive: The relevance of PR in the age of social media

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By Alexandra Reid

Yesterday’s Zone5ive was a hot ticket. In fact, the near-capacity crowd Tweeted about it so much it trended on Twitter. The event’s success can be owed to the fact that co-presenters, our own Francis Moran and Kathryn Schwab of Cyan Solutions, demonstrated what they were talking about by producing a content-rich presentation that they – and attendees and event organizers from OCRI – promoted aggressively, predominantly through social media.

In their presentation, Moran and Schwab laid out the necessary ingredients that companies need to garner media coverage in both traditional and new media. According to Moran and Schwab, the two key elements are strategy and content. Companies must have their PR resources – either internal or external – research and then target relevant media and provide them with irresistibly rich content in order to ensure their stories get told. Blasting news releases out in hopes of getting covered simply don’t work. The media landscape is shrinking, budgets are being slashed, and the pressure on journalists to produce unique and brilliant stories is weighing down more than ever before. Don’t make them do any more work than they have to. Plan out your story and package it for them. By providing the right journalist with the right story at the right time, you can vastly increase your chances of getting your clients’ story told. New media channels are no different. By providing the right audience in the right forum with the right story at the right time, you can help ensure your content gets shared through reposts, retweets, comments and mentions, which can also boost the relevance of your content in the eyes of journalists.

Two grand examples of the effectiveness of combining an effective strategy with the necessary content were shared by Moran and Schwab. The first story was about how inmedia earned a little Scottish prosthetics company called Touch Bionics a prime time spot on Good Morning America, among a vast array of other Tier 1 global media hits, to debut the world’s first bionic fingers, ProDigits. You can read more about that story, which required a heck of a lot more strategic media targeting than a simple press release, here and here.

The second story was about how a Cyan Solutions client, Clearwater Clinical, a medical device company that treats maladies related to the ears, nose and throat, got their vertigo-treating device, DizzyFix, to market by generating buzz within traditional media about the launch of their new smartphone application, DizzyFix iPhone. Through a highly targeted effort, Cyan Solutions researched and analyzed media opportunities, created a plan to craft the story for media pickup, and implemented the distribution and subsequent followup interviews. The result was international coverage, which you can read more about here.

To decide which media were the perfect fit to tell each of these stories, just two questions were asked: Do they reach their clients’ market, and do they write about their stuff?

In short, here are Francis and Schwabs’ ingredients for media success:

1) Business objectives

Ask yourself, what is your client trying to achieve? Touch Bionics needed to create pull through their channel market; that is, they needed to have amputees showing up at their clinicians offices looking for the new device. Additionally, extensive media exposure highlighting specific patient stories supported the mission-critical objective of persuading insurance carriers to cover the not-inexpensive new prosthesis. Establishing objectives is how you determine degrees of success.

2) Story

At inmedia, we say that it’s not about the technology; it’s the business case for the technology. Ask yourself, what will it do for your clients’ customers? How will it help people? Who, specifically, is it helping?

3) Timing

Different media channels release the news according to their own agendas. However, your product does not need to receive full coverage on the day of its launch. You are actually better served if coverage is spread over time, which creates a sustainable message. If you put all of your eggs in that launch day basket, you’re going to be disappointed.

4) Opportunity

You can’t force the media to come to your story; you’ve got to deliver it to them. Instead of trying to build your own intersection of interest with the media, discover what they are interested in and serve that interest with irresistible content.

5) Vector to market

To target the right media, simply ask yourself, do they reach your market, and do they write about your stuff? These same two questions need to be asked each and every time you seek media coverage, whether that’s in the New York Times or a 30-person LinkedIn group, in order to ensure a targeted approach and the subsequent uptake of the story.

Where does social media fit into all of this?

New media requires the same content rich and targeted approach. Before you put news out, you’ve got to ask yourself, who is your audience, and where are they? Social media has opened up opportunistic channels for reaching specific interest groups, but you can’t tell them your story if you don’t have a following. The best approach is a tactical one: develop a content driven and targeted social media action plan early on, and begin engaging on strategic social media channels to develop a loyal following.

Towards the end of the presentation, Francis listed a few of his favourite fictions that he has heard directly from the mouths of technology company executives, some of which he has previously written about on this blog, including: Public Relations can’t be measured, and, it’s all about relationships, parts one and two.

In summary:

For Pr to continue to be relevant in the age of social media, you’ve got to plan, package and target your stories.

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