The Matchbox.

Jun. 26

Analyst Relations: What’s in it for vendors?

While some technology executives are skeptical of analyst firms because of their hefty price tags, analyst relations is a critical element of most technology vendors’ thought leadership and PR programs. Tech industry analysts ranging from Gartner to Forrester to Aberdeen and even smaller niche industry players provide significant value to vendors and enterprises, and almost all industry analysts will offer an annual briefing to vendors without charging a fee.

Tech vendors that brief industry analysts benefit from the opportunity to share their solutions and strategy with analysts who oftentimes recommend these solutions to enterprises and provide third-party vendor assessments to the overall marketplace. If you ask the right questions and pay close attention to their answers, many analysts also offer valuable insights/feedback on the competitive market in the briefings. Not to mention the chance to get on their radar for inclusion in future industry reports. For analysts, it is key for them to understand the whole market that they are advising and that includes a solid understanding of all provider offerings, differentiators, business models and case studies (PR note: include all these items in your next analyst briefing).

If there seems to be a good fit during the briefing, consider the value of a paid relationship as both parties – vendor and analyst – will have the opportunity to gain greater in-depth market knowledge. As a vendor you will get access to analyst reports (which range in a la carte pricing from several hundred to a few thousand dollars) and more interaction with analysts for one-off inquiries, advisory services and support for other vendor-driven marketing and public relations activities.

So before you turn down an analyst meeting—thinking they are just trying to sell you on a subscription/membership—remember the benefits you may be missing out on.

 

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Jun. 15

Tactically Speaking, Who Should “Own” Social Media?

As more and more social media channels pop up among an overwhelming, dizzying array of networks to manage, e.g., Pinterest, Instagram, SlideShare, the big debate on who should control social media within an organization is igniting.

Many of my PR colleagues believe that PR agencies should advise on PR strategy but leave the community management, e.g., day-to-day tweeting, posting, responding, to internal marketing folks. While the agency handles our clients’ social media needs on a case-by-case basis – whether developing an overall strategy, recommending occasional posts or engaging in soup-to-nuts social management – we often have a far better grasp on the content than our internal counterparts. Why? Because we operate as an extension of the team that doesn’t drink the corporate Kool-aid. We are objective.

 

In many ways, social media should be approached from the same perspective as traditional PR—It’s the job of the agency and the account team to learn our clients’ businesses inside and out. As such, we often find ourselves involved in business strategy conversations with our clients—well beyond the realm of PR—as we have invested ourselves in their business as well as the overall marketplace. This is critical to the success of the PR program and our ability to develop poignant bylines and media pitches and advise on analyst relations strategies and tactics, etc. Social media falls into the same bucket— we already know the hot topics as well as which hot buttons to press or avoid. In the end, a unified social media approach will yield better results than parsing it out. After all, how can you advise on strategy if you don’t know the tactics?

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Jun. 08

Statistics are a Goldmine News Hook

No matter the industry, statistics-related news items grab media attention. And, as fresh stats indicate the evolution and forward-looking trends of a given marketplace, they can be the perfect PR opportunity for companies to rise to the top of the media pipeline.

Releasing stats directly from your organization’s research or a commissioned study is ideal, but don’t discount the opportunity to comment on other organization’s stats and what they mean to your industry’s growth, how customers will be impacted, and if appropriate, recommended advice on how they should respond favorably. These types of insights will help forge your company spokespersons as thought leaders on the greater marketplace and its future.

A few pieces of advice:

Weigh In on Questions Beforehand: If you’ll have input into a research study before it kicks off, ensure that at least a handful of questions speak to hot issues that will yield poignant marketplace findings. Try to insert some angles that haven’t been reported on yet.

Provide an Infographic: Develop an eye-catching infographic that brings your key stats to life. Reporters are often more likely to cover research if clear, attractive visuals are available to accompany the story.

Contact Reporters ASAP: Once a study is complete, conduct media outreach as soon as possible to avoid stale data. Or, if commenting on another organization’s research, develop and push out your analysis points right away to be considered as a resource when reporters are in the midst of developing their stories.

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May. 21

Right Here, Right Now: Tips for Getting News to Journalists

Timing a news announcement when reporters are looking for news to cover or focused on a specific trend or topic takes thoughtful planning (and sometimes a bit of luck) but following a few suggestions can help you make that critical connection.

For breaking news, send as soon as possible to targeted journalists.  Some reporters, but not all, will review the news in advance and hold publishing with an embargo. Make sure they honor embargos in advance, so you don’t overstep your legal or investor team or release product news before the solution or feature is ready for customers.

When alerting reporters to news, target Tuesday through Thursday between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sending information just after the hour, at 9:12 a.m. for example, might avoid the rush of news or press releases sent by other companies. The goal is to get the news out in the morning while reporters are determining what they are covering that day. Afternoons and Fridays are out as reporters are already filing their stories and avoid holidays or other major pre-planned news announcements, e.g., Facebook’s IPO, the Royal Wedding, even major industry conferences (if you are a BtoB provider).

If you are sending a press release through a newswire, like PRWeb, contact them for recommendations on distribution timing. For example, PRWeb suggests scheduling releases via their wire at 3 a.m. ET, so news populates across their network of partner sites and is available for reporters first thing in the morning.

For all communications, monitor analytics available via Google Analytics, an email distribution partner or other media monitoring tools, to determine the timing that is right for you and your audience. This will vary based on your organization and the type of news you are trying to communicate.

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May. 14

5 Tips to Maximize Media Coverage Mileage

A primary goal of any PR program is securing media coverage. Having a news outlet write about your company, quote your executives or use your client case study as an illustration of an industry best practice is an unbiased validation of your company’s approach, solution and success. However, once the media coverage comes, many companies are unaware of all the opportunities to maximize the visibility through other relevant sales, social media and marketing channels. Here are five ways to fully leverage media coverage generated.

  1. Website – Including media coverage on your website demonstrates that your company is worth talking about. All company websites should have a newsroom for posting recent press releases and websites. If you don’t, make it a priority. News coverage can be highlighted with media logos and/or a description of the article. You could also give your homepage a dynamic content boost by including a newsfeed on the home page.
  2. Social Media – Social media is all about sharing so make sure to post company news on Facebook and Twitter. A note about Facebook: be selective about which articles you share as most people are fine to see daily corporate posts but no one wants their newsfeed clogged with corporate news. Twitter, however, is a place where you should retweet all coverage. Mix it up by also offering a quick overview of the article and don’t forget to credit the news source with their handle, e.g., via @Forbes.
  3. Newsletter – If you have a company newsletter you should be highlighting recent and relevant news coverage with your customers, prospects and employees. It is a great way to mix up the often copy-heavy design by including the headlines and links to 2-3 recent articles.
  4. Sales Collateral – Nothing expresses a company’s value more than third-party media validation. Arm your sales team with appropriate media coverage to demonstrate the company’s thought leadership, market presence and reputation.
  5. Blog – Most blogs are in need of content – something to break up the barrage of thought leadership and how-to’s. Institute a monthly recap of recent news coverage or write your own synopsis of a story that featured your company.

 

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May. 01

Step Outside Your Bubble for More Media Opportunities

This is a timeless issue – many companies only want to discuss topics directly related to their product or service. While this sweet spot is undeniable, it doesn’t have to mark the boundary of what corporate spokespersons can comment on. In fact, only entertaining topics that solely focus directly on a company’s products or services can prevent the business from reaching its full media coverage potential, not to mention stifle their potential visibility in related marketplaces.

Salesforce.com is great example. While beginning its path as a CRM software provider, the company, thanks in much part to Marc Benioff and a savvy PR/marketing team,  has transformed itself and entire industries including SaaS and Cloud computing. The company looked beyond the CRM marketplace and pushed the envelope – not only in it’s technology but it’s forward-looking views that distinguished Salesforce.com as a revolutionary leader. Bottom line – thoroughly evaluate what your business means to the future of your industry and the greater marketplace – and don’t be afraid to discuss periphery topics. It just may be the door-opener to a new market or expanded use of your solution.

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Apr. 24

Keyword Crazy

Over the last six months, on behalf of clients, I have participated in numerous meetings with SEO firms on improving online rankings, increasing web site traffic, etc. No doubt many are masterful and have proven track records at their trade. But, much to my chagrin, many also talk about SEO press releases. I am not opposed to an SEO strategy that incorporates keywords into press releases. Certainly any savvy PR pro knows that keywords and SEO hyperlinks are an important element of a well-crafted press release campaign. But, for the SEO professionals presenting, the purpose of the press release was not to convey an important corporate message but rather to push out the organization’s top 20 keywords.

In several examples presented, I was shocked to see that the headline and first paragraph or lead repeated the same phrase six separate times, resulting in utter nonsense. As a journalism school graduate, I am dismayed when I see organizations distribute keyword laden messaging and pass it off as a press release. Ultimately, you are damaging your credibility as an innovative thought leader and maddening the folks that can help you push out your message – the media.

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Apr. 13

What Does the Future Hold for PR?

The flying car unveiled at the New York Auto Show and Google’s project glass topped headlines last week, making me think are we that far off from a Jetsons-like era and more importantly what is next for PR?  In 10 years, will the press release still exist?  Will Twitter or another social site be the preferred method for distributing news to reporters?  Will mobile devices be our primary (or only) tool for consuming news? I don’t know for sure, but I guarantee there will still be a need for public relations practitioners.

The value a good firm provides its clients goes far beyond distributing news releases.  It begins with strategic communications counsel, thoughtful planning and insight and reaching goals that align with the organization’s overarching business objectives.  The tools used – a press release, blog post, social media channel – are less important.  It is the skill and thought process behind the tactics and the savvy professional or firm that really makes PR invaluable.  Those in PR have an uncanny ability to look at a company as a whole (its products, offerings, brand awareness) and quickly assess its ability to effectively communicate with customers, partners, investors, media, etc.  This is not always easy to assign to a marketing department or other team within an organization.

Plus, PR pros are known for multi-tasking, meaning we are most likely to succeed at navigating our flying car while communicating with clients through our Google glasses.

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Apr. 04

Boil Down Your Elevator Pitch

I took a trip to DC this past weekend, which involved multiple airline flights and conversations with my fellow travelers. Inevitably our discussions turned to our types of work. What I found interesting was that many of the so-called elevator pitches I heard were vague and jargon-filled. I had to ask additional questions to clarify. Today’s company descriptors must be understandable and relatable on the first pass. Otherwise, companies may miss out as potential buyers move on to a company they understand.

Basic company descriptors serve as the messaging foundation for all other corporate materials and communications vehicles, so taking the time to get them into shape is critical. Following are three tips for a great elevator pitch:

1)   Keep it concise – You may be tempted to describe every aspect of your business in great detail, but putting a carrot out first enables prospects to develop the level of interest needed to focus and absorb those additional details later—and to ask questions about particular areas of interest.

2)   Cut out the jargon – Don’t assume that everyone knows all the acronyms and industry terms. Use simple terms so the crux of your business comes through clearly.

3)   Include the main differentiators – Go beyond stating your company’s industry and explain what you bring to the table. Why do customers choose you over competitors?

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