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Kevin O’Keefe over at Real Lawyers Have Blogs recently brought up a very important point about the shift to content creation in today’s marketing playing field. While traditional methods like print and TV news media are still effective routes to reach target audiences, there’s no doubt that this arena is shrinking and in its place, content hungry social media sites continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

Shifting to the role of content creator in your marketing efforts requires a substantial time investment. Blogs need to be well thought out, accurate and frequent. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are great tools to reach the masses but require an extensive amount of legwork to establish feeds that captivate and engage online audiences. Today, trade publications are much more apt to publish guest articles or guest blog posts but if the business professionals – let’s use attorneys as in O’Keefe’s scenario – find themselves stretched thin by their responsibilities to the practice of law, how can the firm expect to create a regular stream of technical wisdom to help promote itself?

O’Keefe weighs the idea of using a third-party content creator to outsource content but I’d like to suggest a stronger alternative. Public relations professionals have been creating content for busy executives since long before the marketing shift toward content creation and we’ve been sharpening our skills accordingly for many years. While using a third-party for content means starting at the ground floor each time a complex writing assignment arises, a true PR pro works to gain an innate understanding of his or her client with the added bonus of playing a crucial role in guiding the marketing strategy of a particular brand.

Having worked in PR for six+ years, my job role has always included an emphasis on content creation. Whether the topic covers semiconductor chips, pharmaceuticals or medical devices, I regularly work with complex subjects and the brilliant minds who deal in these subjects to develop valuable content. Susan Ennis, founder of EnSpire Communication, has been at the content game for more much longer with special expertise in legal matters, among others.

Not trying to brag, but using PR professionals for your content marketing yield a few extra bonuses:

  • We think in the big picture. Content is only created if it is advantageous and productive to the brand we are marketing.
  • Comprehensive is our favorite word. We repurpose content to create cohesive communications outreach while being efficient.
  •  We understand audiences. Whether we are fine tuning complex messages for a B2B audience or repackaging complicated concepts for the general public, it will be on target.
  • We are researches at heart. All PR programs begin with research, crucial skills to support the content needs of our clients.
  • We can work social media. Even the most brilliant blog post won’t reach target audiences if a viable social media following is not cultivated by using the right channels.

In the end, O’Keefe isn’t sold on third-party content creators – I wonder if I can sell him on PR instead?

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We recently blogged about Pinterest copyright issues and the careful measures businesses must take when creating a company Pinterest account. In a nutshell, everything pinned must have either been generated by the owner of the Pinterest account or is content that the user has explicit rights to or written permission to post.

What if you’re just an average Pinterest user looking for ideas to redecorate your house, DIY tips, or you want to visually browse locales for your next vacation?

My advice – though in no way legally sound – is to use your discretion. You’re an individual using the site for recreation, not a business trying to make a profit, a big sticking point for copyright suits. For example, websites like MarthaStewart.com have a button that lets you easily pin the site’s vast database of craft, cooking and home and garden ideas. According to TechDirt, it’s the top social referrer for MarthaStewart.com with more traffic than Twitter and Facebook combined. Martha Stewart wants you to pin away!

But there are still many unknowns when it comes to how Pinterest copyright violations will be dealt with. Will there be a YouTube-like approach with illegal videos being pulled and accounts closed when necessary, or will this be another Napster situation where 12-year-old girls find themselves in the middle of a hefty lawsuit?  We’ll keep close tabs on the situation; in the meantime, take a look at your existing pins to avoid any trouble.

Thinking about what you are pinning and how you create the pin will help you stay in the clear.

  • Websites have the option to prevent its content from being pinned, don’t try to find a way around this.
  • Give proper credit to the original source. Make sure that the creator is mentioned in your pin and that it links back to the original webpage.
  • Don’t include the recipe or instructions in the body copy of the pin, make sure your followers will have to click on the link to the original post for more details after being enticed by the photograph.
  • Avoid pinning material that equates to someone’s livelihood. In other words, shots from professional photographers, artwork, choreography and other original designs that could be for sale are strictly off-limits.
  • Think about the content you want to pin. A clothing company should be receptive to a user pinning one of its outfits if you take the time to link back to the site where you can purchase the apparel. A landscape photographer probably won’t appreciate you pinning his or her stunning waterfall shot.

Most will enjoy the benefits that pinning can bring. Remember, the site is just for imagery so if you want to know the instructions or background behind the post, a proper pin will lead you to the website or blog that originally posted the idea, creating increased traffic for the content creator.

So just use common sense. Before pinning think about the content and if its creator would want it shared with the world.

 

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It’s inevitable that a new company, product or service will encounter issues and problems in its early stages. When it’s one of the fastest growing social networks, these bumps in the road happen in a very public way.

You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about Pinterest, the latest Internet sensation, where users can “pin” images, video and more to their pin boards and follow other boards that appeal to their own interests. Just last month the social network grew 52 percent to 17.8 million unique visitors.

Unfortunately, copyright issues have thrown a roadblock that is keeping the social network on its toes as it tries to quickly adjust to mend legal issues while keeping its strong momentum. In the beginning, Pinterest discouraged self-promotion and suggested its users share content they did not create – a copyright red flag if I ever saw one.

The company has now issued an updated terms of service with an easier to understand policy on copyright and trademark infringement as well as change in direction of asking users to either pin content they own or have permission to pin.

It’s important to know, that due to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, sites like Pinterest and YouTube are well protected from any type of copyright suits – the onus falls directly on the individual user, you agree to this when signing up for the site.

So, as a business looking to create a company Pinterest account, how do you keep yourself out of trouble on Pinterest? Bottom line, the absolute safest route is to only post content that you have either created or have written permission from the creator to pin.

There are still a lot of unknowns in terms of how copyright infringements will be dealt with. As of this post, there has not been an official suit filed. Businesses are undoubtedly going to be held to different standards than the mother of three who is looking for rainy day craft projects. Additionally, profit is another sticking point for copyright suits.

Treat Pinterest just as any other website – you certainly wouldn’t post something you don’t have rights to on your company homepage – and don’t use Pinterest any differently.

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You’re ready to hire a public relations firm and have worked through the exercises we suggested in the first two blog posts.  You’ve identified your objectives and have a good idea of what you need from a PR firm.  Now it’s time to find the right fit.

Size counts

There are many different types of firms out there – large multi-national organizations as well as free-lance PR consultants, and everything in between.  To help you narrow your search, we’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of working with different size firms.

Larger firms have many advantages – associates experienced in working within multi-cultural environments, large staffs available to expend concentrated energy in a short amount of time and in different locales, deep internal resources including industry-specific knowledge and experience, and ready access to graphic design and advertising professionals.

Mid-sized and small PR firms can either operate as generalists – applying the core principles of public relations theory to a variety of industries, or as boutique firms – specializing in specific industries or applying specific PR tactics such as publicity and promotion or crisis management.  Mostly regional in nature, some of these firms are aligned with a large multi-national firm, allowing them access to resources while also providing local contract services in areas where the large firm does not maintain offices.

Technology has spawned a new form of PR firm – those that work virtually.  These types of firms vary in size and structure, generally relying on building a network of PR professionals with specific skill sets to fill client needs.  Without the overhead costs associated with brick and mortar, many of these firms are in the position of providing exceptional services at a lower cost.  The very nature of their structure allows these firms to engage professionals in different regions of the country in order to better service client needs.

Generally, larger firms won’t consider taking on a client for less than $15,000 to $20,000 a month, but some have worked with smaller clients in recent years in order to weather the recession.  If your organization is smaller, you may want to restrict your search to small and midsize firms.

It’s all about building relationships

When you begin talking with PR folks, you want to look for someone who listens carefully and takes the time to understand your needs.  Look for curiosity – learning about a new company or industry or taking on a new challenge energizes some of the best PR pros.

Look beyond fancy offices and long impressive client lists.  Instead, find out how long the firm’s clients have maintained their relationships with their PR counsel.  Ask for references.  Effective PR is all about building relationships with your customers, your investors, your employees, the media and your community.  Are the people you’re talking to good at building relationships?

Red flags and ethical considerations

It’s important to know if the firm promotes ethical standards among its staff.  You won’t want someone representing your company who doesn’t abide by the PR industry code of ethics.  A simple way to assess this is by asking if managers are accredited or certified in the field of PR.  Do they support continued education and accreditation of junior staff?

Find out how your work will be staffed.  In many cases, once the contract is signed you may find that the people you met during the presentation phase take a big step back and your work is assigned to junior staff.  When this happens, you may find that you have to provide more guidance and oversight, which may defeat the whole purpose of hiring a PR firm in the first place.

Find out how the firm handles conflicts.  If they represent several companies in your industry, how do they determine which client gets the referral when a journalist asks for an expert opinion?

Make sure you understand the billing system.  Will you be billed by the hour?  Is there an alternative?  What about costs associated with media databases and news clipping services?  If you are placed on a retainer system, what exactly does the retainer cover?  Is your account manager experienced at managing a budget?  Be wary of discount pricing – you’ll only get what you pay for.

Are you being promised front-page coverage in the New York Times?  Do status reports provide clear information?  Are you finding yourself mentally correcting grammar or have you caught typos in the presentation materials?  Has the PR pro been a little lazy, quickly throwing together a plan that doesn’t address your objectives?

While no one firm is expected to be perfect, you can find the best fit for your company when you do your homework.


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Public relations is a complex discipline with lots of moving parts.  Many people think of PR as publicity and dealing with the media, but it is really much broader and plays an important role in every industry.

So, how do you know where to start when you need to find a PR firm?  Navigating this vast and complicated space may seem like a daunting task, but break it up step by step, and you’ll be on your way to finding public relations support that fits your needs.

In this series of blog posts we’ll walk you through the process of finding the right PR champion to meet your very specific goals and objectives. Every organization has a unique structure and mission, but asking the right questions and knowing what to look for will help you find the right fit.

The first step is to look inward. What type of organization do you run? What does your internal structure look like – who would be responsible for directing the company’s PR efforts and do they have the time? What are you looking to accomplish?

Organizations have a variety of goals that require the dedication of additional resources to public relations.  Consider the following scenarios:

  • Start-ups and early phase companies looking to create buzz without the steep costs of advertising placement.
    • WARNING: If you fit in this category ask yourself if it’s truly time. Careful consideration of business objectives, a clear vision, and room in the budget amid myriad costs of starting a business is mandatory to establishing a successful PR program.
  • Companies wanting to build brand recognition and move to the next level.
  • Mid-size organizations looking to secure their place in the market.
  • Larger companies with a specific need to be filled whether it be media relations, community engagement, issues management and crisis communication, reputation building, social media, employee communications, and more.
  • Organizations that must maintain a strong reputation or ones that have recently suffered damage to their reputation.
  • Organizations that must engage multiple audiences on different levels.
  • Professional service firms that rely on establishing expertise and building relationships.
  • Organizations with complex messages, not easily packaged for key audiences.

So who are you? Take a step back and look at what stage your organization is in, what specific goals and objectives you have, your existing resources, and where you need help.

 

Art credit: © Aidarseineshev | Dreamstime.com

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Shuttle Endeavor being decommissioned in the Vehicle Assembly Building.

In a recent blog post, I mentioned attending a NASA Tweetup – a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While in awe of the event’s tours, special speakers, close-up view of the launch and behind the scenes access, the public relations professional in me couldn’t get over the fantastic strategy behind the event.

Imagine if you were told the most popular and well-known segment of your company would be shut down. It’s a preposterous business scenario for most, but with the shuttle program officially closed as of August 2011, it was a dark deadline surely looming over the heads of the NASA communications team.

On January 21, 2009 the first Tweetup launched – and with great success. So successful, that the most recent Mars Curiosity Tweetup was the 31st of its kind.

While astronauts aren’t currently launching into space at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA has found an innovative way to keep fans engaged and take a viral approach to cultivating new space fans when a less savvy organization could have quickly become lost and forgotten.

The results are astounding. NASA tracked 10,665 tweets originating from the 150 participants of the Juno spacecraft launch Tweetup to find the event yielded 29.9 million potential impressions. By many accounts, today’s Tweetups produce close to double the impressions of the Juno Tweetup.

With each Tweetup, the momentum behind NASA’s social media presence continues to snowball and more and more of the general population become engaged with the latest updates in space exploration. The Twitter handle @NASATweetup boasts 30,062 followers and @NASA ranks in at 1,636,046 followers. It doesn’t stop there, as the majority of NASA Tweetup participants continue to support and promote the space agency long after everyone returns home.

The masterminds over at NASA honed in on the inherent nature of social media – sharing information – and found a fruitful formula to spread messages across millions of Twitter accounts. Congratulations, this is one for the social media textbooks.

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