Technology and social media have impacted almost every aspect of daily life, from the way we get our news to the way we communication with others. The impact for PR has resulted in both challenges and opportunities for delivering targeted and relevant messages to our audiences. Social media and other technology platforms have certainly changed the landscape of our professional and personal lives, both connecting us to people and facilitating interaction, while at the same time creating barriers to receiving messages due to information overload and the absence of the “human touch.”
In part two of this series, our panel of experts will share their techniques for reaching their intended target audiences using technology and social media to their advantage. They also share ways to keep up with technology trends and insight into how PR will be affected by technology in the future.
Panel of Experts:
- Barb Clapp, CEO, Clapp Communications
- Wayne Schepens, Managing Director, LaunchTech Communications
- Amy Burke Friedman, President, PROFILES
- Jessica Tiller, Executive Vice President, Weiss PR
- Adam Yosim, Senior Account Executive, Stanton Communications
Consumers are bombarded with information today. What are some tips for communicators to ensure their message is received in this information-overload environment?
Jessica Tiller: “The average individual is hit with 4,000 – 10,000 brands per day. It takes a minimum of seven messages for a brand to register with the intended target. It comes down to knowing your audience and trying to strategically cut through the noise. Consistency is key as well as hitting targets through multiple channels – traditional media, social, trade shows, speaking engagements, and advertising. Creating and maintaining ongoing marketing and PR initiatives and programs that utilize multiple channels will help reach the intended audience.”
Amy Burke Friedman: “Look at the entire package – it isn’t just what you say, but how you say it. Is there a compelling message that speaks to the audiences you are trying to reach? Is it snackable and tailored to the audience? Is there a visual component to accompany it? Is there a call to action or mechanism to measure your engagement?”
Wayne Schepens: “Consumers are overloaded with information, with many vendors all saying the same thing. My advice to a sales person dealing with a client is to be very clear and concise in your messaging and relate it to the pain points that the client is trying to solve. It all comes down to: ‘How are you making my life easier and more efficient?’ ‘How are you educating my workforce?’ ‘How are you helping me solve my problem?’”
Adam Yosim: “Companies should be diligent about targeting the right media to get to their audience. In an information overload age, people tend to digest a select amount of news from both mainstream media and trade and industry blogs that align with their personal and professional interests. Organizations should pursue niche media and influencers in their media outreach, in addition to contacting the traditional general media. A targeted approach can often reach target audiences far better because of the trust and focus the niche publication or channel has nurtured with that audience.”
Barb Clapp: “It’s crazy – it is harder and harder these days. The most important thing to focus on when you are putting together your message is to understand who the message is being given to. For a PR professional, it is important to understand your client’s product. You need to find the messages around the product and send it only to the people who matter while being super targeted, succinct, clear and authentic. You have to tie it back to your brand and reputation.”
Along the same lines, what are your tips for getting the attention of the media and the press when you have to compete with other compelling stories?
Adam Yosim: “If there is a national crisis or an event that is dominating the headlines in your niche, perhaps post information to your web and social channels so there is no accusation that you buried information. Wait for proactive outreach until you know you will be able to have the media’s and the public’s attention. Also, sending out a press release with the same subject line and intro to your entire contact list will only get you so far if you aren’t Google or Apple (or your industry’s equivalent). Put in the leg work to identify the right reporters at the right media that reach your key audience. If you tailor a pitch to a specific reporter, it will increase the chance that they will be receptive to your information. Let the journalist know that you went the extra mile to read their coverage and believe that they are the right reporter for your story.”
Barb Clapp: “There are many things that can distract the media – news happens and can deter planned media. The main thing I try to emphasize with the media is to develop relationships and don’t waste the media’s time. We try to be honest with our clients and don’t pitch anything that will lose the integrity of the other stories we are pitching. We developed a lot of relationships and use them effectively. Packaging whole stories is another way – lining up key people and making it easy for the reporter to cover the story. Well written pitches go a long way for reporters.”
Amy Burke Friedman: “Provide the media the story in a package so that all they have to do is open it, and it’s all there. Start with a reason the media and their audiences should care, provide interview opportunities and visuals. Relationships with the media matter. Build them and treat them well. Timing is critical; know the news cycle and what else is going on around you.”
Wayne Schepens: “Make sure your story relates to current issues and current challenges that are out there. We have to be creative, but so do our clients. They need to have compelling ideas and data to back it up. Reporters need to write for their audience, so you have to keep that in mind. My best advice is to relate challenges to upcoming and current events, and back it up with examples.”
Jessica Tiller: “It is so important to have good relationships with the media. You need to spend the time researching what they cover so you don’t bother them with irrelevant stories. Give them something they can use and tailor your pitches accordingly. Storytelling is a relatively new buzz word but has been around for a long time. The bottom line is that you have to have a good story to tell that will resonate with viewers or readers. Give the media a story that makes their job easier and you’ll have a better chance of getting it placed.”
In your experience, how has social media shaped and changed the landscape of PR today? What are your tips with keeping up with the latest technology trends?
Barb Clapp: “I believe social media has made PR more robust. It has allowed a lot more reach than one newspaper article or one media clip, and it gets a lot more eyes on your message. I think overall social media has been great for PR. I love the opportunity of blogs and all the options it offers. For us, keeping up with technology trends involves attending industry trainings, reading publications, and having internal meetings to educate ourselves about the industry. Each week we have an ‘Industry Insider’ session to share best practices and things we’ve learned from working with our own clients.”
Amy Burke Friedman: “The way we communicate today is vastly different than how we communicated even 10 years ago. Social media has changed so much when it comes to relationships with others, how we receive and perceive information, how we connect with people, brands and even media. Social media is a part of almost every communications strategy we develop and implement. To keep up with the latest technology trends, you need to use technology. Use social media, see how others are using it (personally and for business), try something new, find a community, follow Mashable and other industry insiders. Not every new platform or tool will make sense for your clients, and you will need to know when that is the case and how to convey that to your clients. Just because Snapchat exists, doesn’t mean your business or organization needs to be on it.”
Jessica Tiller: “When we were starting our firm, there was a concern that PR would not be needed to the same extent with the advent of social media. That never happened. In fact, there is an even greater need for PR pros. There is much more need today to make sure that your brand and messaging is consistent and making sure you are getting in front of your key audiences on a regular basis. With social media, we now have multiple ways to speak directly with audiences without the filter of the media. Engagement is higher and you can be more responsive to the audience’s needs. With analytics, we now have more insight and measurement which is something that was lacking in the past. Keeping up with trends for me means reading, networking, and attending industry conferences.”
Adam Yosim: “Sending a reporter a press release used to be the main way that companies communicated news to the public. Now, organizations can post a copy of their release, or any other 140-character update on Twitter and Facebook, that can go straight to the public. Companies don’t need to be early adopters of technology, but they should still keep up with the latest trends and platforms where their target audiences are most active, such as Instagram and Snapchat. Influencer marketing is also growing in popularity and having a bigger impact than companies passively posting material. This can be applied to any industry. Consumers are more accepting of people they follow because they trust that person and they know that person won’t go off-brand. It’s another tool in the tool kit. We keep up with the latest technology trends by attending webinars and conferences to help expand our knowledge.”
Wayne Schepens: “It’s important to be aware and monitor for the conversations that influence your business. If you have relevant content, social media will help amplify it. Getting employees involved as social media ambassadors is important. Sending out the content, engaging with followers, and providing insight is key. You don’t get the biggest bang from blasting and reposting; you get the most from unique engagement and interaction.”
Given all the new technologies available and the fast pace of business today, how to you envision PR changing in the future?
Wayne Schepens: “Technology has presented a much better way to influence the message now. There are many other platforms and publications that are always looking for content. It takes time and relationship management, but there is a lot more we can do to drive media interest now than ever before. Technology has enabled an easier entry point now, but the challenge for early-stage companies is how to translate the message into something a reporter can get behind.”
Barb Clapp: “I predict that It will be more competitive, and I think it will be harder and harder to get coverage in some ways. In other ways, the social component will make things easier, but again, you have to make sure that all of these best practices that are put into place are followed. Consumers are capable of cutting through messages that are not legitimate and not authentic. Furthermore, it seems that increasingly, media outlets are being pigeon-holed into being what people think they are, so that has also posed a new challenge to PR which we need to stay on top of.”
Amy Burke Friedman: “People’s’ attention spans are shrinking. And, people are now able to multitask like never before. We’ve moved towards short and sweet, visual vs wordy, experiential vs idly scrolling. We are going to have to continue to showcase our clients in ways that the public wants to receive it.”
Adam Yosim: “The industry is shifting away from relying on a press release and PR by the pound, in other words, sending out large amounts of info without a strategy. Newspapers are still going strong and vitally important, but there will be a greater focus on developing and posting online content, especially visuals. Content marketing has become a key strategy for blending public relations and marketing. Attention spans are shrinking, so the need for condensed content that is shareworthy, appealing and optimized for mobile will continue to rise.”
Jessica Tiller: “I believe quick turn-around will continue, or even amplify. You need to be on top of something as soon as it occurs – not in a few hours, or the next day. Measurement and analytics will continue to move into the PR and marketing space, showing what is working and what is not working. One thing that won’t change: having a strategy that ensures goals and objectives are aligned before putting tactics into place.”
About the Panelists:
Barb Clapp, founder and CEO of Clapp Communications, brings more than 30 years of advertising, marketing and business development expertise to her agency. She opened the agency in October 2001 and has won a multitude of industry awards and recognition since then. Barb is a coveted crisis communications speaker and has been a sought after speaker on other critical issues such as women’s leadership development, mentoring, and the resilience she gained from her own experience in overcoming difficult circumstances.
Wayne Schepens is the founder of LaunchTech Communications and has over 20 years of experience in emerging technology and cybersecurity. With an advanced technical pedigree that includes launching a successful startup of his own, Wayne offers a unique perspective to his clients. Wayne takes a hands-on approach and becomes intimately familiar with all facets of his clients’ operational, sales and marketing goals to advance companies and products from the initial planning stages to a successful market launch.
Amy Burke Friedman’s career began in 2003 after meeting with Amy Elias, the founder/CEO of PROFILES, which led to an entry-level position with her firm. She’s been there ever since and became president in 2015. Over the past 15 years, she has worked with clients in industries ranging from development, tourism, hospitality, education, arts & culture and beyond. She has provided clients with media relations, event planning, social media, strategic partnerships, branding, and crisis communications services.
Jessica Tiller began her PR career with an internship at a utility company during a crisis power outage. As a young intern with little experience, she was thrust into the role of company spokesperson and learned a lot about crisis communication as a result. She started Weiss PR with a colleague in 2008 during the recession and is now celebrating their 10 year anniversary in business. (Photo Credit: O’Dell Graphic Solutions)
Adam Yosim’s understanding of what makes a story and the inner works of newsroom decision helps him with personalized, targeted media outreach to earn positive media coverage for his clients. He spent seven years as a TV news reporter in North Carolina, Kentucky and Baltimore before joining Stanton Communications.