Daylight Saving Time: Keep it in Mind When Sending Press Releases this Weekend

November 3, 2011
 
Most areas of the United States “fall back” an hour at 2 a.m. local time on Sunday, November 6.   In fact, about 70 countries utilize Daylight Saving Time around the world.  Japan, India, and China are the only major industrialized countries that don’t observe some form of daylight saving. 

Daylight Savings Time begins this Sunday

Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday

 
Those sending press  releases this weekend should keep the time change in mind when sending out their news.
 
Here’s a great reference to see which geographic locations change when.  For those sending press releases to Business Wire, no worries.   The time zones in Business Wire Connect, our secure, client interface, update automatically to reflect appropriate time zone changes on Sunday.
 
Daylight saving time has already ended in Europe.  The European Union and United Kingdom turned the clocks back an hour at 1 a.m. on October 30.   As of last Sunday, London will once again be five hours ahead of eastern standard time and Paris will be six hours ahead.
 
For those who enjoy sleeping in on Sunday mornings, here’s your chance for the rare 25-hour day.
 

Tips for Effective Searching: Knowing your Defaults Results in Better Google Search Engine Results

October 13, 2011

by Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist

Sandy Malloy, Senior Information SpecialistIn our recent post on free tools for monitoring your press releases, we encouraged users to revisit their Google Alerts settings.  This valuable service was established years ago.  Lots of us signed up then and have never looked back.  We hope you’ve updated your alert settings and are getting better results after a quick check-up.

The same is true for ad hoc searching.  Nonchalant typing of a phrase into the Google search box can be tempting, but a few thoughtful tips can help you get the most out of the search experience.  Here’s a few to get you started.

1)  Know your defaults.  It’s good to know your faults, but when it comes to searching, it’s even more important to know your defaults. Many of these can be changed to improve results.

For example, a search on Google Web (http://www.google.com) defaults to “everything.”   Sounds comprehensive, right?

Not necessarily.  An automatic blanket search can have drawbacks.   The information you are seeking often gets buried beneath higher-ranking but irrelevant pages.  You  may be better served searching individual Google content areas such as news, images  or Web separately.  Also, try Advanced Search (discussed below).

The order in which results are displayed can also affect your results.  The default sort order is “relevance.”  This type of sorting  works great for non-news websites.  For news, sorting by date is often better.

Unless you specify otherwise, Google will suppress apparent duplicate content.  Again, for some types of searches, that’s fine.  If you want to find a company’s website, it’s usually the first result on the page and you don’t need anything else.  Or you may want to know that a piece of news appeared and don’t care which version of the story you see.  But what if you want to see how widely that story was disseminated?  Google will show you one version of the story unless you override duplicate suppression.

2)  Searching for exact phrases is a common strategy, but did you know you can use quotes around your phrase or dashes between the words for exact matches?

If you don’t, Google will search that combination of words in any order and not necessarily next to one another.  That can result in weird returns such as this recent search for stories about Fire Prevention Week.

I added no quotes or dashes. The third result: “The State Police forensic team, State Fire Prevention and Control, A week after the fire, owners Mike and Jim Frazee said they plan to rebuild their .…”

For common combinations of words (e.g., “Barack Obama”) it’s not that critical to be more specific.  But combinations of common words can spit out irrelevant results that nevertheless rank high because all the words are present.

3)  Make Advanced Search your friend.  It will allow you to put in phrases without worrying about the format (see #2 above), combine words and phrases (hint:  a phrase using a dash, e.g. fire-prevention-week, can be used as a “word” in the advanced search form) and even allow you to narrow your search using other parameters such as source name or domain.  The domain option in Google Web is a great way to find information from non-commercial sources.  For instance, you can find health-related information coming from educational (.edu) or government (.gov) sources, or nonprofits (.org)  In News, I like to specify my time frame as well.


How Are You Managing Your Online Newsroom? Please take Survey, We’ll Share Results

September 12, 2011

by Ibrey Woodall, VP Web Communications Services

Ibrey WoodallIn several years of creating online newsrooms, many of my most enjoyable experiences have been working directly with, and learning from corporate communicators in the field. I’ve met some great people, and I’ve been fortunate to be involved with online newsrooms for educational institutions to Fortune 500 corporations.

The stories I’ve heard are endless and entertaining. To me, public relations professionals are the soldiers on the front line. They maintain the reputation of their organization and deal with a barrage of questions – especially when things go wrong. I began surveying journalists in 2004 to see what they wanted from an online newsroom. That’s all pretty common knowledge now.

My goal today is to continue accumulating more real-world knowledge from PR warriors, and relay that to other communicators. Business Wire has teamed up with Bulldog Reporter to gather responses, and share them with all communicators.

If you have an online newsroom, please participate in the Communicators Online Newsroom Survey. Let us know how you manage your online newsroom. There are only 29 questions, so it won’t take long. You have until Sunday, September 18 to help your industry peers, and maybe even win an Apple iPad2TM.

Communicators Online Newsroom Survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/OnlineNewsrooms

I look forward to learning more.


How to Write Good Quotes: Keeping it Real Makes Your Press Release More Effective

August 30, 2011

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President, New Media

Our friends over at Ragan wrote an enviable dispatch recently, 4 Ways to Improve Quotes in Press Releases.  Wish we had authored this one.

Quotes are a tradition in press releases and inject a human voice into the text.  The challenge of balancing executives’ bloated claims in quotation marks with saying something meaningful continues for writes of press releases.   Quotes riddled with jargon and buzzwords lose their meaning and leave the reader wondering, “Huh?”

Good QuotesRagan cited this bad example of a quote from  President and CEO John Johnson:

“I plan to continue this legacy of providing innovative products and services to our customers. With over 30 competing companies for our customers to choose from, we have some challenges ahead. I am confident that we can meet those challenges successfully. And the first step is the release of our new app.”

In such cases, better to paraphrase like this:

“President and CEO John Johnson believes the release of the new app will provide customers with the communications tools they need, setting XYZ Company apart from more than 30 competitors. “

Our own Andrew Guinn wrote about the grammar of quotation marks in press releases a few weeks ago–don’t you sometimes wonder where punctuation belongs?  We also touched on making your quotes more notable in a recent Press Release Basics webinar last week.

Apart from injecting humanity into a press release, quotes are often featured as a “pull quote” drawing even more attention to their effectiveness–or lack of it.  Best to craft them carefully.


Advertising Value Equivalencies: The Mostly Meaningless Metric with Nine Lives

July 7, 2011

by Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist

Sandy Malloy, Senior Information SpecialistLucky seven.  Unlucky thirteen.  Three strikes.  The Top 100 movies of all time.  We love numbers, don’t we?  Rankings, ratings, scores, anything to tell us some kind of truth in a simple way.  My favorite wine retailer told a joke about the guy who comes into the shop: “This wine you sold me last week is awful!”  he tells the proprietior, who responds, “Parker gave it a 92.”  The customer exclaims, “I’ll take a case!”

Ad Value Equivalency (AVE) is the magic number that won’t die despite repeated attempts by the Insitute for Public Relations and well-known measurement mavens to kill it.  Yet another article on the dubious value of AVE appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week.

Why is AVE the Godzilla of measurement?  Probably because it’s simple.  It’s easy to research advertising rates, multiply by column inches or air time, and tack on an “earned media” factor (three is common).  Voila!  You have a magic number that purports to justify the effort.

A poll of 400 respondents on this very blog a couple of years ago found that a third did use AVE but about a quarter didn’t even know the meaning of the phrase.  So, while even more people either didn’t use it or didn’t know about it, a large group of those who responded either:

  • Didn’t know of another way to measure, or;
  • Reported to a client or manager who  demanded a simple number even though the result being measured (message dissemination and influence) is complex.

The WSJ article acknowledges no “simple alternative” to AVE exists, and most PR pros would agree that measuring public relations efforts  depends entirely on the goal of publicity (something I have blogged about in this space.)  As Ketchum’s Dr. David Rockland has said, “AVEs get replaced by a series of metrics that are dependent on what exactly you are trying to do.”

Here are a just a few basic examples of outcome-oriented goals and corresponding measurement methods:

 GOAL:  Create interest in a contest you are promoting, gather sales leads

  • MEASURES:  Track the sources of leads, which might be a combination of ads, press releases and social media mentions.  Record link clicks in press releases and combine with internal Web analytics for a landing page on your site with contest details and entry form.   Create a matrix that compares the effectiveness of each approach with the cost.

 GOAL:  Educate employees about new health benefits

  • MEASURES:  Set a benchmark of desirable awareness level. Poll employees about knowledge of the benefits before and after campaign.

GOAL:  Defuse a crisis.

  • MEASURES:  Track mainstream and social media coverage, noting whether the media is reporting the messages you are trying to convey and the tone of the coverage.  In this case, negative publicity is far worse than no publicity.

Brave, Rude World: Intrusive Technologies Beg Etiquette Questions for PR Folks trying to Mind their Mobile Manners

June 28, 2011

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President of New Media

Is it ever OK to politely suggest someone not text in your presence?  What about tweeting during meetings and  conferences?

These and other frequently asked questions regarding the brave–some would say rude–world of mobile technologies were explored at a recent Business Wire webinar, Minding your Mobile Manners:  Etiquette Tips for the Digital Age.  The event featured author and etiquette expert Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute.

Cellphone etiquette dominated the discussion with polite pleas for direction on what is/isn’t acceptable in today’s constantly connected universe. Post cited a Feb. 2011 Intel survey which found that 75% of those polled say mobile manners are worse than just a year ago.  Our attending group of professional communicators are obviously not alone in their need for guidance.

Mobile Manners in Austin, Texas:  Seen at the Whip-InABOVE:  Mobile Manners in Austin, Texas: Seen at the Whip-In

Some may think the answers to the questions above are obvious but as Anna Post pointed out, “It depends.  Each situation is different and it entirely depends on the context.”

Asking someone to not text in your presence–and how to frame such a request–depends entirely on the relationship between the people involved.  If in a professional situation a simple, “Monika, I really need your full attention here” might be appropriate.   Some companies have implemented a policy of having people drop their  iPhones and Blackberries at the door as they enter a conference room.  “If your attention is really not that important at the meeting, perhaps you shouldn’t attend,” she noted.

And Twitter at conferences and meetings?

Post recommends that when live tweeting a small event like a local PRSA meeting, you should informally advise the organizer or speaker to avoid hurt feelings and the appearance you don’t care about the presentation.

As for large conferences like SXSW, or the National NIRI or PRSA gatherings, ubiquitous technologies are pervasive and even expected.  Many speakers appreciate the visibility afforded when the audience shares their talking points in online communities, resulting in more book sales, speaking gigs, or qualified business leads for the speaker.   No need to stop tweeting or even to advise the speaker in this situation.

Email etiquette was another hot topic.   Post recommends always using a salutation with the person’s name, rather than diving straight into the message.  Avoid emoticons and text-message speak at all times in any type of business communications, she advises.  It appears juvenile.

As communications professionals, we’re especially obliged to know how to get our messages across even as the tools and techniques for doing so change as fast as the weather.  Good mobile manners–like good grammar and spelling–increase the likelihood of successfully communicating.

If you missed our webinar, feel free to catch the replay on the Business Wire events page.    Also, we hope you’ll take our one-question PR Peeps Poll on minding your mobile manners: What’s your biggest digital pet peeve?

Please and thank you.


PR Peeps Poll: Press Release Views are Most Valued Press Release Metric

June 21, 2011

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President, New Media

Seeing is believing, apparently, when it comes to press release metrics.   According to our most recent PR Peeps Poll, communications professionals believe press release views are the most valued metric in judging a press release.

Of 179 polled, almost 53% (94)  cited release views as most important.   Hyperlink clicks rated second in importance with 16% of the vote (29).  Traffic driven garnered 12% of the votes cast (21) while times shared took 11% (19) and headline impressions 9% (16).

 With all the talk of the importance of social media sharing and engagement, we were slightly surprised by the findings.  Counting press release views is an older concept and online marketers continue to explore the intersections of  visibility and influence.   We figure influence must start somewhere–like having your carefully crafted messages being seen in the first place.Here’s the details:

Which press release metric do you most value?

  • 94, or 52%      Release views
  • 29, or 16%      Hyperlink clicks
  • 21, or 12%      Traffic driven
  • 19, or 11%       Times shared
  • 16, or  9%        Headline impressions

To those who participated, thank you for voting.  How about helping us out with our next PR Peeps Poll on minding your mobile manners:  What’s your digital etiquette pet peeve?  Please let us know and thank you.

 179 respondents via Twitter, email and Business Wire webinar polls. Poll conducted  conducted May –  June 10 2011.

Bloomberg Canada Shares Tips on What News Agencies Want from your Press Release

June 14, 2011

A group of IR, PR and business professionals recently attended a panel discussion in Toronto hosted by Business Wire Canada, featuring editors from the Bloomberg Canada team. The editors offered tips on making the most of your press releases.

Bloomberg Canada and Business Wire

Professional communicators gather in Toronto for a Business Wire event featuring Bloomberg editors.

David Scanlan, bureau chief,  Sean Pasternak, a reporter for the banking and financial services sector, and Steve Frank, commodities industry editor, shared their  insights based on the reality that they see an average of 300 press releases per day.

Takeaways:

• Your press release may be long and full of useful information, but be sure to put the most pertinent content in the first paragraph of your release.

• Know who you’re pitching. Call ahead or send an email to the news organization asking the name of the most appropriate person to receive your press release.

• Be time sensitive. You may have the lead story of the day, but if it reaches the newsroom at 4:59 p.m. on a Friday, don’t expect much.

• Want to follow up with your press release? Email the editor and ask for five minutes on the phone at his or her convenience. If you promise five minutes, deliver five minutes.

• Be clear and concise.  Avoid jargon or complicated industry terms.

The prevailing theme of questions posed to the panel by the audience was “How do I get your attention?” Each editor shared his personal preferences.

Sean Pasternak responds favorably when coffee is involved. David Scanlan appreciates scheduling time to chat in advance, and Steve Frank likes conciseness in your press release.

We’ve archived a webcast of the event for those who couldn’t attend.

NOTE:  Special thanks to Katrina Bolak and Rishika Luthra for contributing to this post.


Tips for Measuring Sentiment Analysis: Don’t Let Early Adoption Become Buyer’s Remorse

May 31, 2011

 

by Sandy Malloy, Information Services

A recent  blog post by measurement expert Katie Paine calls sentiment analysis the “latest shiny new measurement toy” and suggests questions to ask before attempting to measure  social media sentiment of corporate and other messaging.

One of her most important points  has relevance for press releases:  Do people express any sentiment at all in discussing your brand? 

Simple searches on Twitter and/or Google blogs will give you an idea, but first consider the kind of news your company announces.   If you sell measuring equipment to scientists, for example, it’s unlikely that sentiment will register anything but “neutral”–even if your products are discussed in social media.

No sentiment = no need for sentiment analysis.

That said, monitoring all types of media for what’s being said about your company, industry and competitors is important.  But monitoring is not analysis, and analysis might not be sentiment metrics–thus, paying for analytics when all you need is monitoring makes no sense.

Just for fun, I reviewed about 200 social media clips that a long-time subscriber to Business Wire’s NewsTrak Clips had received over a few days.   Almost all the tweets and mentions of  this engineering company were neutral.  One item stated that the company had been “called out” for some action. 

A human reader could easily identify the statement as negative, while software might or might not make that determination.  Either way, though, I would have had no trouble doing my own analysis with such a low volume of posts.  For Paine, the cut-off before investing in analysis software is 10,000 relevant non-spam mentions per month.

Of course, you can analyze your social media mentions in other ways to put this information into a meaningful context.  Almost every week, I see lists like this one that offer help managing and analyzing social media clips.

If you still can’t resist the “shiny new toy,” here are some steps to take to assure your early adoption doesn’t become buyer’s remorse:

1Start with monitoring and worry about analysis later.  You can use free tools or a more comprehensive paid service, as long as you can monitor how many posts or tweets come through daily.

2.  Commit to either looking at the results yourself or making sure a colleague does every day.  That way, the task won’t be overwhelming unless the volume is overwhelming –and then you’ll have a case for investigating analysis software after all!

3. If sentiment analysis is indeed a “key metric,” decide on whether the volume of posts and tweets justifies buying software.  Also, be aware that sentiment analysis software has improved but is unlikely to be 100% accurate.  You’ll probably need  people to cross-check at least a sample of the results.

4.  If you determine that sentiment is largely absent, decide what metrics are relevant and find the tool(s) that will help you gather the information.


PR Peeps Poll: Two-thirds say Press Releases Play Significant Role in Branding

May 25, 2011

 

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President, New Media

As branding and SEO continue their convergence, two-thirds of those responding to a recent PR Peeps poll said that press releases play a “significant role” in their branding efforts.

Out of 228 polled, 66% categorized the role press releases play in their branding efforts as “significant.”  Twenty-five percent said press releases play a “minor” role in branding efforts, while 9% said they don’t use press releases in branding efforts.

PR Peeps Poll:  How do press releases fit into your branding efforts?

“Press releases are part of an overall strategy for my company and customers,” noted one PR pro in the comments section of the survey.   “Brand positioning plays and should play a major role not only in press releases, but also in any piece of info or PR writing [that comes] out of the organization,” said another respondent.

Judging from these results, one could argue that press releases belong in the marketing department–in addition to communications, of course.

Here’s the findings:

    • 150, or 66%    Press Releases play a significant role
    • 57,  or 25%     Press releases play a minor role
    • 21, or 9%          Don’t use press relases for branding

To all those who participated, thank you very much!  How about helping us out with our next PR Peeps Poll:  Which press release metric do you most value?

228 respondents via Twitter, email and Business Wire webinar polls. Poll conducted  conducted April – May 2011.


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