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.

Sample Social Media Policies

Here’s another quick hit for the end of the day. This is quite an index of corporate social media policies: http://bit.ly/3z9mDS. Why is this important? If you’re looking to create a policy for company bloggers or publish social | web guidelines for employees, you’ll want to start by taking a look at what other corporations are doing. PR teams should work directly with company bloggers, who play an important and effective role in publicizing product information, correcting the record, or building trust with influencers. 

Investor Relations & Social Media

I’ve had some interesting conversations over the summer with Investor Relations executives and I’ve been following the discussion around best practices and SEC guidelines as companies start to consider social media for IR. Most companies are interested, but concerned about running afoul of guidelines or limiting disclosure to only one group of contacts. I find the posts on the Q4 Blog to be especially educational, insightful and helpful. They also recently published a report on public companies who are using social media for IR. Get your copy here.   

PR Measurement

Have you ever struggled with explaining how PR and Communications activities can be measured? Audience reach, ad equivalents, number of stories? I like that the PRSA — led by Dr. David Rockland of Ketchum — is beginning a process to look at how PR contributes to the bottom line and the results that it generates. Read the working group’s presentation and provide input and comments here: http://bit.ly/mirSC. 

Back to School

Now that the summer is over and everyone’s back to school, I will be back to posting on a more regular basis. For those of you who are friends on Facebook, you’ve seen me comment on quite a few things over the summer — changes at the WSJ regarding embargoes, PR spam (and why it is best to use professional media contact software), and which brands are effectively using social media during the recession.