More on Embargoes & Exclusives

A well-written and reasoned discussion of embargoes and exclusives by Brian Solis. Read the article here. Based on my own experiences, I have a couple of observations: 

Exclusives: Once an outlet runs an exclusive, other outlets won’t follow the news. I have seen this happen very rarely with news that is truly newsworthy. As Brian notes, you run the risk of making some of your other best contacts very annoyed at you, but on truly breaking news my experience is that other outlets don’t have much choice but to follow. 

Embargoes: Yes, it sometimes happens that someone will push go early when there is an agreed upon embargo. In this case I would always call the other outlets who were briefed and to tell them that the embargo had been broken and that they are free to publish. I would often ask that reporters write in these terms: “Tomorrow, XX is expected to announce that it has….” It is always imperative to manage your contacts and give them all the best opportunity to be timely if someone gets out of the gates early.


Local Talent

Yesterday, a friend and I hosted a small gathering for local start-up entrepreneurs and consultants in Northern Virginia. Most of these folks have worked in a large corporate setting and having an opportunity to speak to each other and business leaders from the more “matrixed” disciplines like public relations gave everyone an opportunity to re-connect, get feedback, and brainstorm. I left the meeting energized and excited about the talent that’s out there – building iPhone apps, launching vertical web sites, and building Twitter applications.  If you’d like to join an upcoming event please connect with me privately at anne@socialbuzzpr.com.

The Power of Time-Off

I was really inspired by Stefan Sagmeister’s speech at the TED conference about the power of time-off. You can read a quick synopsis of the talk or watch the video here. In a nutshell, Stefan closes his New York studio every couple of years for a sabbatical to refresh his creative outlook. The time-off allows him to explore new ideas, become inspired and change his point of view for his work as a designer. The creative ideas that he pursues during his time away are put to use and become the muse for the work that takes place between his sabbaticals.

For me, taking a break this past summer allowed me to exponentially increase my connections to people, ideas, and the best practices in my industry. As importantly, it has made me very clear about what I do best, where I can contribute most, and the kinds of organizations I’d like to work with. So while I didn’t travel to Bali like Stefan, my own sabbatical has allowed me to learn a few good things along the way.

People. Everyone talks about growing your network and I have certainly invested time to expand my personal and professional networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (@annebentley). Equally important is face-to-face time with people – asking for advice, talking about their projects, exchanging ideas, and soliciting input and feedback. Connecting with entrepreneurs and giving them a sounding board from my PR point of view has been an exciting part of my time away. I’ve also had fun getting involved in some of my friend’s activities – from hiking local trails in Northern Virginia to providing pro bono consulting to DC non-profits. And then there are the hundreds of new people I’ve met because I was out and about and available to new possibilities.

Purpose. One of the things I’ve enjoyed during this break has been the opportunity to have a laser like focus on my personality, strengths, and the types of companies and assignments that naturally appeal to me. I also took the time to fully explore business ownership and learned a lot about my abilities and myself as an entrepreneur during the process. I also created a list of what was important in my life beyond work. This specificity allows me to effectively communicate what I offer to potential business clients and employers and keeps me honest about the types of opportunities I am pursuing.

Passion. Having the time to fully engage in my industry has been extraordinarily satisfying. I’ve read white papers, explored social media best practices, participated in seminars, started a blog, read industry analysis, and deconstructed major media events. Most of all, the time-off has renewed my passion for what I like to do – motivate and influence people.

The time-off has been an incredible gift and a moment to take stock, get refueled, and linger over a cup of coffee or lunch with a friend or business colleague. And, I have a new arsenal of ideas – like Stefan – to bring to my next assignment.

Adding My Blog Feed to Facebook

I just used NetworkedBlogs to add the feed from SocialBuzzPR to my Facebook profile. This is handy as it reduces the need to manually update Facebook with my posts. Of course, I also had to add the feed from my blog to FeedBurner to get things working probably. For now, I am opting to look at posts before publishing them on my profile. This can be easily changed, however, by changing the settings.

Social Media Influencing Offline Decisions?

At AOL, we had a lot of data that said that online research influenced offline purchasing decisions. Who doesn’t go to a search engine to compare products and pricing before making a decision? Nate Elliott shared a few points this morning about social media influencing offline behavior and posits that we’re all still more likely to listen to our friends through face-to-face interactions vs. social media. He includes some interesting examples from the NHL and Fiskers (school and crafting supplies), who’ve tied together social media, events / ambassador programs, and PR to reach and engage their target audiences. Enjoy the read here.

White House.gov Talking Points

Today’s little nugget comes from Mediabistro’s PRNewser, which is always a great source for information and deconstruction of PR tactics and campaigns. Today’s article focuses on the White House.gov blog posting its daily talking points on various topics, starting with those on healthcare. PRNewser quotes a couple of prominent Democratic PR folks who say its never been done before. My personal opinion is that it is helpful to see the specific language from the President and the White House on various topics that are so often at the center of news reporting. The lens of the media and the alternative and probably opposing voices that end up in news stories often makes the “news” a matter of angle and input. And, while the tactic of posting talking points on the White House.gov blog could very well be new, isn’t everyone who puts out a press release or posts a statement or uses Twitter to tweet about their point of view doing the same thing? What do you think?

Helping Start-Ups Thrive

I’ve been asked to visit with a start-up tomorrow to review their public relations plan. A lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into this business and I’m excited to see their plans and provide whatever help I can before they come out of beta and officially launch. With more than a decade’s worth of experience in managing product launches at AOL, I stick to three initial steps to help teams get organized: 

* The first step is message development and finding examples, stats, stories, first person narratives, trends, etc. that tell the story of your product and why people will want to use it. Sometimes product developers make the mistake of only focusing on the inside jargon of their team, company, or features of their product. No one in the media appreciates this — even industry journalists who are probably used to parsing through tough press releases to find something newsworthy. Remember, too, that just because you launched it, it isn’t newsworthy on its own. Some people like to plan their campaign first, but I’ve noticed that the creative juices of message development help to tease out elements that can be built into PR tactics. 

* Second, develop a pre-launch to post-launch timeline of activities. I’ve seen a lot of companies declare victory when the product ships. There’s no meaningful measurement of units sold, downloads, sales, or click throughs to look at the effectiveness of launch campaigns and to inform the next steps needed to keep the product top of mind. During this planning think about teaser campaigns, strategic leaks of cool product features, who’s on your pre-brief and / or exclusive list, what other digital elements will help tell your story (screencast, b-roll, photos), and how you can keep the campaign alive by planning seasonal activities to re-highlight your product. Setting up Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts and integrating them into your ongoing campaign are important steps, but remember that the name of the game is interactivity — use polls, questions, and solicit feedback to keep the conversation going. 


* Finally, media train key spokespeople. To ensure that your spokespeople don’t revert back to their safety zone of jargon — media train, media train, media train. I’ve had the good fortune to work with Michael Sheehan and his message development triangle is a proven model to help spokespeople move from message to great examples and back and to graciously tackle tough questions.

Finding New Audiences – Futurity

With a dwindling number of media outlets — not just in the sciences — communications teams are pushed to find ever more creative ways to reach specific audiences. I think this story about Universities coming together to create a site to aggregate science news is interesting. Now we’ll have to see how they continue to drive traffic to the site.

You say reporter …

In general, we’ve all learned by now that bloggers and journalists abide by different rules of the road. When you have an established relationship with a reporter, they do tend to call regarding rumors prior to writing the article. Bloggers mostly write and then call to ask for a comment. Check out this article in today’s Business Insider regarding David Pogue at The New York Times. Where exactly is the line between journalist and blogger – as many now do both or, at least, use social media, in addition to writing for a particular newspaper, magazine, or wire service. Or, a journalist who writes reviews for a major publication and writes books on the same topics? As all media inevitably becomes digital, it will certainly make for some interesting discussions and re-interpretations of who and what we call journalists.

Digital Council

Rachelle Spero, EVP of Digital Media at Cohn & Wolfe, wrote an interesting op-ed in PR Week (subscription required) on creating a cross-functional digital council to manage policies, strategy, and to educate groups within a company. She suggests bringing together teams from HR, marketing, communications, legal, and others as needed to develop and manage messaging and to clearly define roles and responsibilities. I think this is especially important in a multi-brand environment. Bringing together brand teams with the corporate team will allow groups to share insights, collaborate when needed, and work together to amplify messaging without overtaking the official voice of the company.