Measuring the Real Value of Media Coverage

Public-Relations-Results-Measuring-&-Determining-ValueI came across an interesting blog post in MediaPost recently in which the author, travel PR executive Vicky Hastings, noted that quantitative measures are no longer sufficient for measuring the success of PR. Hear hear!

While the ‘what’s’ and ‘how’s’ of PR measurement will remain in debate for years to come, particularly as the industry continues to add social media to their PR mix, what I found of most interest is the recommended approach to measuring and reporting on media coverage.

Like the author of the above-mentioned blog post, we at PerkettPR believe that media coverage should be measured on both quantity and quality. Yes, the quantity of articles is important, but I’d argue that the quality of that coverage is equally important. Even as I write this, however, I know there will never come a day when a client requests great articles over more articles. ☺

Media Coverage ≠ Ad Space
We do agree that the purpose of media relations is not only to generate awareness, but to also obtain third party validation. A journalist-written article about a brand or its product is inherently more valuable than purchased ad space. The author notes that advertising equivalencies (AVEs) should never be used as a measurement for media coverage, and we wholeheartedly agree.

Measuring against AVE’s is an outdated and inaccurate assessment of an article’s value for several reasons – not the least of which is the existence of digital-only publications and the fact that 50 percent of consumers read their news online (The Social Guy offers some insight on how AVEs work – or don’t – in the digital age).

Another big one in my book is that it doesn’t take into account the quality of an article. Granted, quality is a unique and somewhat subjective factor in media measurement. While one can argue that a quarter-page ad in Forbes offers more value than a similar ad in a trade publication, that’s not necessarily true. It may cost more, but it’s the impact of the ad that matters.

Value is in the eye of the beholder
The same holds true for media coverage. The perception of value is largely dependent on the publications that best deliver on an individual company’s PR goals. For example, if the first goal of PR is to drive leads for the sales team, a trade publication read by sales prospects may be more helpful in generating leads than a story in a top business outlet; and will therefore be perceived as more valuable.

Shouldn’t that article then be measured more highly in accordance with its perceived value?

Next, consider the elements that make up that article. Does it hit on the company’s key messages? Does it include a spokesperson quote? A customer success story? Or even a photo or screenshot of the company’s product? Each of these elements not only adds another layer to the story, but also offers greater value. To measure an article that contains all of these elements simply by how much ad space it commands is hardly a true assessment of its actual value.

Measurement Matters
At PerkettPR, we promote a broader view and definition of media measurement to our clients, and by and large, they agree with this approach. But determining what to measure is only half the battle. Figuring out how to measure it is the hard part.

That’s why we’ve developed our own proprietary methodology and reporting process to address this need, but we’re curious to know what others are doing to measure and report the real value of media coverage.

Got any tips or insights you’d like to share? What do your clients ask for or care about most? We’d love to follow this post with a round up of your best ideas.

Got content? 5 tips for great newsletter content

contentNewsletter creation can be remarkably challenging for even the most prolific writer. After all, your newsletter has some lofty goals: get through spam filters, attract readers’ eyes, get opened, get read, get click-thrus, convert to a lead, and if all the stars align – result in a sale. Phew!

Coming up with good content is easier than you might think. Here are some proven tips we’ve picked up over the years to help you get started:

  1. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes – Think about newsletters you like to read and try to mimic that type of content. Is the tone fun and lighthearted; is the content informative and educational? If you enjoy a specific style or type of content, chances are your readers will too.
  2. Don’t try to sell anything – Sure, the ultimate goal with any marketing tactic is to increase sales, but a newsletter should first seek to engage your audience. Your goal should be to capture their attention and provide interesting, compelling content that holds their interest over time. This helps to keep your services top of mind when your prospects are ready to buy them.
  3. Lighten up – Business is serious, but dry and dull is not the kind of content you want to provide your readers. Your content can be both informative and entertaining. Hear a funny customer story? Share it. A Ron Burgundy fan? Include a favorite quote when it makes sense.
  4. Recycle existing content – Old content can be new again. Revisit archived blog posts, customer success stories or past campaigns. Even current content on your blog, website, Pinterest page, or other marketing channel can be repurposed as newsletter content.
  5. Create repeatable content – Create a series such as a customer or campaign of the month, or a tips series where you share one piece of advice to a common challenge in each newsletter. This helps keep your readers engaged and looking forward to your next issue.

When thinking about newsletter content, remember that your audience – whether they’re prospects you’d like to convert to customers, or existing customers you’d like to retain – they opted in to your newsletter for a reason: they’re interested in learning more about your business and what you can do for them. You don’t need to attract their attention; you need to keep it. Cater to their interests with relevant content that offers valuable, entertaining, educational information. Keep this in mind as you develop your newsletter and you won’t disappoint.

What’s your best tip for creating great newsletter content? Please share in the comments.

Six Tips for Staying Productive During the Lazy Days of Summer

Beach ParadiseHere in New England, we’ve enjoyed an amazing stretch of summer weather and all the fun that comes with it. With summertime distractions beckoning, I’ll be the first to admit it’s sometimes a challenge to stay focused on my work. Fortunately, working in a virtual environment, the folks at PerkettPR pretty much have productivity down to a science. In fact, our team has been sharing their tips over on our Facebook page, and below we’ve compiled some tried and true suggestions to help you maintain focus, improve your productivity and find time to enjoy the dog days of summer.

  1. Manage your inbox – In the modern workplace, email has taken over as the primary mode of communication. Information is shared, requests are made, assignments are given, status is provided, notes are taken, and countless other workplace activities are all captured and managed via email.  Sure, there are numerous ways to search and filter email content to find what you need, but highly productive – and effective – people almost always practice the inbox-zero method.

    Here are five simple tips to reign in your inbox:

    • Group emails by discussion to organize and reduce the appearance of all those separate emails in your box.
    • Read email from the bottom up (older emails first) – and if you’ve grouped emails by discussion, you only need to read (and save) the most recent email, which includes the entire thread.
    • Take action on every email immediately upon reading it: file it, respond to it, flag it for future action, or delete it.
    • Create a filing system and use it. You can file by account, project or people. For me, it’s one for each account then subfolders for each program delivered for that account.
    • Aim for zero-inbox, but if you can’t get there, treat your inbox like an action list – only keep those items you are currently working on. Once they are completed – file or delete them.
  2. “Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to gain leisure.“ – Benjamin Franklin
  3. Get up earlier – I am NOT a morning person. But, I have to say, when I do get up early, I almost always have a more productive day. Try setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier. If you can add 15 extra minutes to your mornings, I’m willing to bet money you’ll feel more energized, less stressed, and more productive.
  4. Take breaks – No matter how busy you are or how lengthy your to-do list, it’s important to give yourself a break. Your mind just doesn’t function effectively or efficiently when you’re tired. Take at least three short breaks a day.  We highly recommend taking every opportunity to get outside as well. Go for a short walk, eat lunch al fresco, make a coffee run, anything that gets you some fresh air and vitamin D will help break up the day and invigorate your body and mind.
  5. Limit distractions – We’re constantly juggling distractions at work: from people stopping by your desk to phone calls to incoming emails, IMs, Facebook notifications and more. Luckily, last month we featured a Q&A with Robert Strohmeyer author of PCWorld‘s Simply Business, a popular business productivity blog. In his role, Robert routinely researches and writes about productivity tools and techniques and tests them out himself. Robert shared his top productivity tips with us.
    “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer

    He notes that his biggest productivity killer is distractions. To combat this, he relies on the Pomodoro Technique, which requires the removal of all distractions (turn off IM & email, mute your phone, close the door) and total focus on one task or assignment for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. He then repeats this cycle throughout the day. I’d never heard of this technique before, but I’m intrigued. In fact, to develop this post, I’ve instituted the Pomodoro Technique and so far it’s working! ;-)

  6. Organize your tasks – One of my favorite tips comes from our own Jennifer Hellickson, a veritable productivity guru at PerkettPR. She suggests, “Chunk out like-minded tasks together. Set aside time to make calls, and do them all at once. Schedule times during the day to check your e-mail, update social media accounts and do other things like writing or research to avoid splintering your attention too much.” Simple and brilliant.
  7. Organize your day – I, and several of my colleagues, are Franklin Covey devotees, but even if you use a plain old notebook or generic planner to write down and prioritize your tasks, it’ll make a word of difference.  Especially in the agency world where reactionary activity is often the norm, you need a way to record and monitor your priorities to help you stay on track with your deliverables. Plus, once you write it down, you can achieve the simple, but uplifting sense of accomplishment every time you cross something off your list.

Regardless of seasonal distractions, maintaining a high degree of productivity is always a challenge. Try some of the tips above and let us know how they work out for you. Or, if you have a favorite tip we missed, please share it in the comments. I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get – there’s a hammock with my name on it out there!

The Art of Listening in Client Service

At the risk of stereotyping myself, and my peers, it seems to me that most PR personalities are talkers, spinners and strategists, but rarely are they quiet listeners or observers. This observation is based on my own experience in PR over the last decade or so. I also speak from that rare position of listener.

Yep, I’m a listener. One of the ‘quiet ones,’ I buck the PR stereotype. I’m an introvert; shy to the point of pain in my youth; and though I have gotten over the pain part, I can still think of 100 things I would rather do than interject myself into a conversation with someone I just met.

Not surprisingly, this has caused some angst for me from a professional standpoint. In the client service business, we must prove ourselves every day – to our clients, colleagues and managers. In PR, this often takes the form of strategic counsel and creative ideas shared verbally in a meeting or via a conference call.

Fortunately, I’ve had some excellent guidance and support here at PerkettPR and have overcome most of my fears about voicing my ideas. Despite these strides, I still believe wholeheartedly that my ability to listen has benefited my teams, my clients, and me in countless ways – perhaps in more important ways than my verbal observations ever will.

Good customer service begins with listening

I’ve heard time and again, “if they don’t hear from you, they don’t know you’re engaged.” I’d argue that good client service is as much about listening as it is about presenting, counseling and verbalizing ideas. Listening is another form of engagement.

I’m surely not the only one who’s come across a verbose PR pro who doesn’t know when to be quiet. You know, the one that cuts you off, interrupts the client, pretends to listen, but then continues talking up his or her idea. Sure, they can talk about their ideas and offer advice on the fly, but it’s the listeners who actually hear and understand what the client really wants. Everyone wants to be heard, especially if they’re paying someone to listen.

We cannot provide excellent counsel without first listening and understanding what our clients have to say. Listening goes far beyond remaining silent while someone else speaks. Listening is about paying attention to the nuances of the conversation, recognizing what isn’t being said, and then applying what you’ve heard to the matter at hand.

Social Media – talking or listening?

As our business – and the world around us – evolves, listening is becoming more important than ever. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Whrrl and countless other social networks encouraging brief status updates, we’re overrun with one-way conversations. It seems everyone has something to say, but is anybody listening?

Christine Perkett has spoken about the importance of listening as part of the social conversation for some time. In a 2009 blog post, she commented, “One of the most effective ways to connect with any audience is to show them that you care. One of the easiest ways to show someone that you care is to listen.” This still holds true today, with even more noise entering the market daily.

More recently Gartner’s Michael Maoz shared his thoughts on the lost art of listening. He notes that many of his clients who are introducing social capabilities to their businesses are reaping big points from their customers by simply demonstrating their willingness to listen. Brands that are most successful with social media are those that understand it is a two-way dialogue, and an opportunity to listen to their customers – just on a broader scale.

Listen up

Granted, in the day-to-day life of your average PR professional, social listening is only part of the job. Our clients look to us for ideas, strategy and counsel delivered verbally or otherwise. And we’ll provide it (even those of us that are more natural listeners, than talkers ;-)) but, first, we’ll ensure we’ve taken the time to listen to their needs and concerns carefully, and offer thoughtful advice that helps them to reach their business goals – not just a knee jerk reaction or response.

What are your thoughts on the art of listening? Are we in danger of losing this crucial skill? How do you ensure you’re really listening to your customers? We’d love to HEAR from you in the comments.

Old School Media Relations: The way of the past or a lesson for the future?

With college graduates flooding a still challenging job market, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my early days as a fresh-faced, energetic PR coordinator for a large national agency based in Boston. Those were the days! It’s both astonishing and amusing to realize how much PR tactics have changed since then. I remember spending countless, neck-kinking hours reading the broadsheets and weekly hard copies and manually cutting and pasting print coverage into neatly organized clip books for my clients.

And who else remembers printing and collating those expensive, full-color press kits with a meticulously edited pitch letter on the client’s letterhead then sending it in the last drop-off of the night by FedEx for the media VIPs on your target list? In some ways, the art of media relations was more about a compelling mailing presentation and who-you-know than it is today. The best PR executives prided themselves on their relationships with key media contacts and bolstered those relationships with coffee or lunch meetings or exclusive invitations to industry or client events.

Pitching processes have changed a lot over the years as well. As recently as a few years ago, I worked for a hospitality PR agency where we literally taped photo slides to calendar listings, and mailed them by the hundreds. Today, we’d be hard pressed to generate the sheer number of calendar listings and news briefs accompanied by photos that regularly appeared as a result of this mass mailing. Yet, in technology PR, we’d never dream of such broad net pitching.

Sure, we’re still looking to generate hits, and we do, but we go about it a little differently and a lot more carefully. With the likes of the Bad Pitch blog sharing the latest ill conceived, poorly written, audacious pitches, you’d just be plain foolish to spam your media contacts or send file attachments without permission. Those of us who’ve been in the business for a while understand that good media relations requires a lot of research and very targeted, personal pitches. This method absolutely takes more time and effort and requires a more narrow focus on fewer media targets, but the results are well worth it.

Thinking about the old school method of media relations, one has to wonder if our industry has lost some valuable strategies along the way to the digital age. As these outdated pitching methods have given way to the online press kit, email communications, and 140-character pitches via Twitter, have we forgotten the basics of good media relations?

Personally, I think there’s something to be gained by recalling the archaic methods of PR’s past to remind us of the foundation of our livelihood. Here are a few of my favorite tips from Rafe Needleman’s Pro PR Tips Blog that reiterate that the Old School lessons learned are still pertinent today:

  • Stay on target: Study your target. How hard is it to read his/her stuff before you pitch? (#10)
  • Don’t Nag: 90% of the phonecalls I get are people asking if I got the press release they emailed. Yes, I got it. Did I read it? Maybe. Do I care? You’d know already. Oh, wait. Here’s something new and even more annoying: A phone call from a PR person telling me she will be emailing me a press release later. Argh! Just send it! (#82)
  • Anything you say… Remember…Anything you say…can be used against you. Or for you. Assume that your phone call, email, IM, or Twitter message is on the record. We sure do. Want to be off the record or anonymous? Agree to it beforehand. (#110)
  • Three Degrees of Lame Lesson: If you’re going to ship a presentation in a clever package, the message should fit the medium. (#118)
  • Circle Jerks: Don’t blast a ton of people with the same crap. Pick and choose your media targets, and write personal notes to them. (#127)
  • The Only Rule: Ryan Block said it best: “Pro PR Tips can always be summed up as: Do your homework and be courteous.” (#100)

I’m not suggesting we regress to faxing press releases, or spend our clients’ money wining and dining editors, but by keeping in mind the hands-on approach and results of those old school methods, we find the key to better and lasting media relations today.

Do you still rely on the core foundation of traditional PR tactics you learned in your first jobs or have you morphed these tactics into something new and better today? Do you consider yourself a traditionalist with digital communications skills or do you consider yourself a digital communications professional with a background in PR?

Share your perspectives on “old school” vs. new media techniques for capturing the attention of important media targets. How has our profession’s media tactics evolved and where will it go next?

Extra Bonus Question: What’s the name of the “Old School” character pictured above.