How Has Digital Changed Communication

June 25, 2015

The internet changed almost everything. Most facets of life are now either shaped or directly dictated by the internet, especially the way we communicate. How has the internet changed communication? Cathy Baron Tamraz, CEO of Business Wire, answers that question with one word: multimedia.

“My prediction is that multimedia will be a part of every single news release,” Cathy said to Tim Bahr, CEO of Nextworks, during a conversation on the future of business news communications. The conversation, taking place during this past SXSW, touched upon the Smart News Release (SNR), a news release enhancement first launched by Business Wire in 1995. The ability for a commercial newswire to embed graphics into a news release and transmit it to news media outlets via the SNR was the first marriage of multimedia with text. It wasn’t just a news release with an image or video, it was an entirely new and unique asset for media recipients. What are the benefits of this marriage?

A recent study by Microsoft finds that human attention spans have dropped to 8 seconds. That means by the time you’re reading this sentence, you’re probably ready for some visual stimulation. Today’s constant stream of multimedia might be a cause for society’s diminishing focus, but it can also serve as the cure. A picture has long been touted as being worth a thousand words, making video exponentially more valuable. By including a video with a news release, you are intriguing the audience on multiple senses. According to Northern Michigan University’s Academic & Career Advisement Center, approximately 30% of people are auditory learners. By incorporating video with audio into your news release, you are reaching a larger audience than by just including images alone.

The importance of video to public relations is not a surprise. Tamraz elaborated on her comments about multimedia explaining that, “people think visually.” Videos provide the public with news in an easy to consume and engaging format.

It’s been twenty years since the launch of the Smart News Release. How have communications assets evolved in the age of Web 2.0?

PR pros are always looking for ways to amplify a news release – a tool that raises visibility of a company, and encourages engagement of the news within key audiences. And, as Tamraz says in the video, assets such as News Capsules provide that very boost to any news release. A News Capsule is a tool that allows a brand to tell a story using interactive multimedia. It’s the gamification of the news release and it boasts an average reader engagement time of 6:12 minutes. That number really jumps out at you when you compare it with the 20 to 30 seconds it takes to read a text-only news release.

Why are capsules so effective in increasing the impact of a news release? Tamraz describes this multimedia asset as the “crossover between news, corporate communications, and marketing.” Advances in internet connectivity continue to blur lines for every industry, whether it is multimedia, communication, or distribution. By offering information in a way that can be learned both visually and kinesthetically, the News Capsule is a tool that blurs the lines between varied forms of communication. This makes it an ideal asset for amplifying a company message on a multitude of platforms.

The future of public relations and audience activation is interactive content. For Meghan Gross, president of Gem Strategic Goulston StorrsCommunications, a picture capsule was the best way to tell a year’s worth of stories. She recommended using a picture capsule to a professional services client of hers as a way to reach their core audience. In this case, the client wanted to showcase the importance of climate change by bringing attention back to all the great content they created that year. The News Capsule allowed Gem to create one single asset that hosted all of the client’s created content, allowing them to present their entire story in one outreach. Of course, once a capsule goes out, as Cathy Baron Tamraz says, it “travels.” Capsules are sharable and embeddable allowing users to embed it in stories, social channels, websites and more.

The internet proved to not be a trend and neither will mobile platforms. The digital revolution succeeded and we now find ourselves in the digital age. And now, every aspect of life revolves in some way around the era we live in, just like during the Industrial Age that preceded it. How are you adapting your communication practices for the growing needs of today’s digital, visual society?

To learn more about digital influence on news distribution read the following articles:

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The Rise of Digital Video and Why it Matters

May 26, 2015

By Hannah Herreid, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire

“Instead of couch potatoes, we have digital potatoes.” Ryan Van Fleet, Senior Director of Insights and Analytics, Tremor Video

There is no arguing that the digital sphere is here to stay. In fact, digital video may soon take the reins from cable television. According to a study by Limelight Networks, Inc, “More than 90% of consumers are open to ‘Cutting the cord’; a shift led by the desire for flexibility and increasing availability of on demand programming.” Additionally, digital video advertising is growing faster than any other advertising platform. Online video ad revenue is estimated to reach $5 billion in 2016 whereas TV ad revenue is predicted to decrease by 3% each year (BI Intelligence).

With mobile and digital use on the up and up, it comes as no surprise that companies, journalists, and thought leaders have taken notice of the trends and practices encompassing it. The Publicity Club of New York recognized the rise in digital video at a recent luncheon where 6 leaders in digital production discussed the current happenings and future of digital video.

PCNY Panel of Producers

PCNY panel of producers: Mike Schmidt – Mashable, Christopher Booker –  The Financial Times, Shalini Sharma – Fast Company, Joanne Po – The Wall Street JournalMarcos Bueno – Vox Media, Laura Petrecca – USA Today

The Power of Live Streaming + Social Media

Joanne Po, Executive Producer at The Wall Street Journal stated, “The path of journalism has changed. We’re creating our own journalism, not necessarily tied to the paper anymore.” The Wall Street Journal like other publications in attendance, have practiced live streaming for multiple years. According to Po, viewership of their live video stream is much higher than traditional cable networks through syndication with other sites who repost the videos. Presence on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Meerkat, Periscope and others also contribute to the increased number of viewers. Livestreaming has served as a great media platform for breaking news and creating content in an efficient manner for digital media.

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New Expectations for Journalists
Reporters are now expected to take a video and be able edit and understand the production techniques whether they are on the production side or not. This is especially true for breaking news. Some producers prefer to send a reporter and shoot the footage themselves as opposed to a PR person’s video in order to keep the digital consistent and in line with the publication; however, news outlets are always looking for qualified experts to comment on breaking or national news stories. For a Public Relations professional, it is still recommended to submit your videos to news sources. Make sure that it is relevant and topical, and try to relate it to a current event. The publication may or may not use your footage, but they will follow up if they like the story regardless.

The Evolution of Media Strategy
According to Jim Pavia the Senior Editor at Large at CNBC Digital, the video component a few years ago was a regurgitation of what had already appeared in an article, and viewership was low. The audience wasn’t necessarily getting anything out of it. Now the strategy behind online video has changed. Videos now offer the viewer a bonus or added value as incentive to watch. “The consumers of media have evolved in their practices of consumption therefore, media must also evolve.” Since the rise in digital video consumption has increased exponentially, CNBC among other media outlets have added digital video components to almost all of their online articles.

Branded Production for Digital Media
The shift from broadcast television to digital video can be attributed to millennial consumers who lead the pack with an average of 4-7 hours of online video intake a week. They consume almost twice the amount over any other age group (Limelight Network, Inc).

Digital video is no longer about clips, but about building production brands, and this is a trend we’ll continue to see. Fast Company is a prime example of this with multiple segments that tap into millennial interests. For example the “Fast Comedy” that features funny workplace skits, “Brand Evolution” which highlights iconic brands’ past, present, and future, and the “29th Floor” a platform for editors and writers to take on whatever is current.

It’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing a lot more online video moving forward. From digital ads in the marketing realm, to online production, to company created videos, evolving with the consumer is what media outlets and public relations professionals must do to keep current.

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Nintendo Just Showed Us: The News Release is Having a Moment

May 22, 2015

By Vilan Trub, Business Wire

Half a million views in a single day, and counting, is no easy feat. A news release from Nintendo this week accomplished just that, and every communications pro should take note of the basic reasons that led to such grand visibility.

Before the digital revolution, a hero was born by the name of Mario, and this hero had a nemesis named Bowser. Bowser started off as a Koopa King who breathed fire, but much has changed. On May 20th, 9am Eastern Time, Nintendo of America announced via a Business Wire distributed news release that Doug Bowser was named as the new Vice President of sales in America. Clearly the two Bowsers are not one and the same, but the irony was not lost on Golin, the PR agency handling Nintendo’s communication management. They identified and utilized the humorous angle that presented itself and converted it to visibility gold. Over 500,000 views, including over half a million views alone of just Doug Bowser’s photograph, is making this an industry defining news release.

Nintendo Bowser Infographic

Especially significant is that 60% of the traffic is stemming from social media. People are actively sharing this content, driving awareness through the roof. Doug Bowser is now a star and Nintendo can be seen almost everywhere online. The press release is having a moment right now, but why?

Journalists, media professionals, news consumers, they are all eager for interesting and relevant content. Golin found a way to satisfy their target market’s needs by understanding the basic elements of a release. What could have been a regular announcement about a new hire was instead turned into a story. The story was about the irony of a company hiring a man who shares his name with a notorious character the company is known for. The headline didn’t read Doug Bowser as New VP of Sales.

Doug Bowser, VP Sales, Nintendo of America

Doug Bowser, VP of Sales, Nintendo of America

The decision to omit Doug was a conscious one aimed at waking the reader up by tapping into their sense of humor. The announcement was professionally written but maintained a lightness, playing on the intended readers’ nostalgia and lingering interest. The release included multimedia, both Nintendo’s logo as well as a crisp headshot of Doug Bowser. Readers could see what a real life Bowser looks like, and they did, over half a million times.

Nintendo set a precedent with this release but it doesn’t mean other companies need to start developing video game characters then hiring employees with the same names. The lesson learned here is that every release has a story and the process of writing an announcement needs to start with identifying a story that can grab the reader’s attention. That story is your company’s story and if it connects with readers, it will be shared and reshared all over the internet.

If Bowser can be VP of sales at Nintendo, maybe Coca Cola can find a Draper to run creative.

The Nintendo release had significant coverage on mainstream media. Some examples include:

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What Today’s PR Pros Can Learn from A 100-Year Old Press Release

May 14, 2015

By Vilan Trub, Business Wire

On October 28, 1906, tragedy occurred – an eastbound train speeding through Atlantic City derailed over a drawbridge causing 53 passengers to drown in the creek below. Popular corporate practice at the time called for Pennsylvania Railroad, owners of the ill-fated train, to cover up the incident. This is exactly what might have happened had it not been for 220px-Ivy_Lee from WikipediaIvy Lee, an early public relations practitioner hired by the company to build a better public image. He saw the event as an opportunity to establish a better relationship with journalists; a relationship based on trust and communication. Under his advisement, Pennsylvania Railroad invited members of the press to the scene of the accident and released a statement detailing the known facts. The New York Times was so impressed by the candor of the issued statement that they chose to print it, word-for-word. The modern day press release: issued statements aimed at disclosing company news to interested parties, was born.

What made the news release so popular? Journalists welcomed the new cooperation from companies and organizations in bringing facts to the public. It has been almost 110 years since Pennsylvania Railroad reached out to the media and still company communication is a welcome presence for journalists. In a recent media survey, 90% of the over 300 industry professionals participating used a company-issued news release in the previous week.

Last time a reporter used a press release

While the name Ivy Lee is known to few PR pros, his legacy continues to influence best communication practices even in the digital age. Lee understood that a news release was only as valuable to the issuing company as it was to the recipients, journalists and other news makers. Nothing states this notion more than one of the guidelines listed in his Declaration of Principles, an announcement that established the modern role of public relations.

“This is not an advertising agency. If you think any of our matter ought properly to go to your business office, do not use it.” – Ivy Lee, Declaration of Principles

How can Lee’s guidelines aid in composing a news release for the digital era?

  • Be Trusted and Timely – Ivy Lee understood that trust is the cornerstone of successfully managing company yay-15034446-digital (1)communications and building a bigger, better brand. With online conversations occurring 24/7 it is important to act swiftly when responding to a crisis or even a potential crisis in order to best manage public sentiment and maintain a high reputation.
  • Focus on the Facts – News content is reliant on facts and there is no quicker way to receive coverage than providing the very facts journalists and media professionals need to craft their coverage pieces
  • Be Interesting – In the digital and mobile age, the headline is the only knock on the door that can garner articles and other coverage for a news release. Don’t be coy and make sure to present enough information to let the reader know what lies inside is legitimate newsworthy content.        Added Multimedia Got More Coverage
  • Be Impactful with Multimedia – Multimedia is king with around 8 billion images being uploaded daily. News releases now come with images, videos, and even gamified multimedia. Company communications must be packaged in ways that audiences demand.

The news release was a product of necessity and continues to serve as a valuable tool for both communications as well as media professionals. The best method to maximize the outcome of company communications is to follow the guidelines that have dictated public relations for over a century. To learn more about the impact of a well written news release read these articles:

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7 Leading CEOs Discuss the Future of Company Communications [Free Webinar]

February 26, 2015

The strategic communication landscape is evolving at an ever-increasing pace.  We’ve seen the move from plain text releases to an era of activation through rich, multimedia storytelling.  Now, more than ever, growing your skill set is critical to keep up with the changing demands of clients and the media. It’s a “learn or get left behind” world.

On March 3 at 1:00 PM Eastern Time, seven of the nation’s leading communication CEOs will come together to discuss the changes and innovations changing the way organizations communicate with media, analysts and consumers.

CommPro CEO Leadership Discussion

On March 3, join 7 of the nation’s leading CEOs for an discussion on the future of communications.

Hosted by Cathy Baron Tamraz, Chairwoman and CEO of Business Wire, this conversation will provide attendees of all levels with best practices that will directly impact communications programming for 2015 and beyond.  Discussion topics will include:

  • Where the PR/Communication industry is headed
  • Instilling and showcasing a spirit of innovation in the workplace
  • The role of collaboration in the creative environment
  • How to create a sense of purpose in your organization
  • The value of mentorship and training
  • Mastering the work-life balance

Participants include…

Register for this free webinar now:  https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/10/7387

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The secrets behind press conferences, product reveals and trade show marketing

February 24, 2015

By Raschanda Hall, Director of Global Media Relations, Business Wire

Trade shows are all about product reveals, updates and, engaging media.  And by engagement I mean, “come ye media and tell the world of the things you have learned today.”  All meant to guide consumers into the conversion funnel, from awareness to action, faster and farther.  The Chicago Auto Show is no different.

Chicago Auto ShowMany exhibiting auto manufacturers will host exciting and sometimes theatrical and humorous press conferences geared toward glamming up the reveals and editorial coverage.

A successful press conference and product reveal is virtually a Hollywood production, and with sticker prices nearing $500,000, what you’ll hear from the communicators responsible for pulling off these events is that you have to nail the basics.

Birthing an automobile:
Preparation and planning are fundamental tenets of public relations. As the dust settles on one show, exhibitors are looking ahead at ideas for next year. According to Curt McAllister, Midwest public relations manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, “This is a little bit of Hollywood. Typically a press conference reveal [the birth of an automobile as he called it] may last all of 20-25 minutes and will probably range between half a million to a million dollars to produce. It’s the closest thing we get to Hollywood here in the auto industry. A lot of preparation is involved.  There is constant communication with our media to let them know we are going to do something big in that city so that they can save a spot on their schedules, and we can ensure a really good attendance.”

Authentic messages and messengers:
“Focus on what’s changed, what’s new, and why you did it,” says Andy Love, the head of car product marketing for Chrysler Group.  “Explain things in an easy-to-understand way.  If you have a new safety feature, help the audience relate with a story.  Explain how things matter and fulfill a need.  If it’s a high-end technology show, how it is easy to use and how it applies to their lives.”

Wendy Orthman is the Manager of the Midwest Region for Chrysler Group Communications.  She works with Chrysler

2015 Dodge Viper GTC

2015 Dodge Viper GTC

executives to get them ready to present on the big stage by first having them present at smaller shows.  “We want our executives at these shows. You want to make sure the speakers you choose have a high enough title that they attract the media. Their quotes bring authenticity and have significance and weight.  The sweet spot is when you have someone with title that can speak with knowledge and be impactful to the media.”

James Zahn, the pop culture and lifestyle blogger better known as The Rock Father, has seen his fair share of press conferences. “Excitement and Enthusiasm. It’s all about the two E’s. Don’t make us [journalists and bloggers] feel like you’re giving us the company line.  If a speaker sounds passionate about the business or product, that makes it more fun for us.”

Show up differently:

SpongeBob Inspired Toyotal Sienna

SpongeBob Inspired Toyotal Sienna

There is a lot of competition for news at these tradeshows and many of your competitors are also holding press conferences. You want to think of how you can show up differently.  Nissan of North America flipped the order of their press conference reveals. “A lot of other guys, they would do a slow build up and reveal the vehicle at the end. We do the opposite,” says Joe Gallant, Manager of Shows & Exhibits at Nissan.  “We keep the speeches short and we reveal the vehicle almost right away.”

The showbiz side of your product reveal means nothing if it doesn’t further your message. “There are very extravagant and flamboyant ways to pull a drape off a car. But don’t get over your budget, and be realistic. Make sure the message and the product is at the heart of it.  If you get so caught up in the smoke and mirrors you’re going to lose your audience,” warns McAllister.

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Don’t Eclipse Your News During the Lunar New Year – Why Sending News to China During the Spring Festival is a Bad Idea

February 18, 2015

Bio Pic 2

By Matt Allinson, Media Relations Manager – International Markets

China’s Lunar New Year is nigh (February 19), but the travel frenzy known as Chunyun (a 40-day period surrounding the Spring Festival) is well underway. It is a migration unlike any other, with an estimated 2.8 billion passenger trips undertaken between February 4 and March 15. Millions upon millions of people will be hurrying home to reunite with family and enjoy the holiday. It is said to be the largest annual migration in the world.

China

Chunyun travel in progress

With so many people concentrating on getting from one place to another, it stands to reason that not a lot of business gets done in the People’s Republic of China during this time of celebration. It also stands to reason that sending out a news release around the holiday is not a wise move – unless, of course, you’d rather people not see your news.

Shaun Bowers Interfax ChinaI had the opportunity to speak more about this with Shaun Bowers (pictured left), the Managing Director of Interfax News Services in China. He was kind enough to answer some questions I had, as well as some questions that are often put to me.

Q: Can you describe the impact Spring Festival travel has on not only the news distribution business, but all business in China?

A: It (business) almost stops. Family is at the very center of Chinese culture and this is the time of the year that workers all across China return to their home province to visit family. Often, it is the only time they will see their family during the entire year.

Starting in January, factories will stop taking orders because of the holiday and will be rushing to fill orders they have in hand. The distance workers have to travel means journeys can take days, so often workers will start traveling two weeks early … and it’s not uncommon for a factory to close for an entire month. So for most businesses, it is a quiet period … unless you are a food vendor near a train station or a retail clothing store (it is traditional to buy new clothes for the Spring Festival).

Q: A question I have received in the past is: Don’t the Chinese have the most cell phones (per capita) in the world? Wouldn’t they still be absorbing news on their devices during the holiday?

A: Perhaps you should ask them if they sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table and read the news. The Spring Festival is a time for celebration – the whole of China is on holiday and people are focused on fun and seeing old friends.

Q: To which western holiday would you compare the Lunar New Year? Or is there such a comparison?

A: It’s hard to compare … for Europe it would be Christmas, and for the U.S. I would say it’s like Thanksgiving … at Thanksgiving, people will do anything to get home. The U.S. has 330 million people and I’m sure readers can relate to what a nightmare travel can be during Thanksgiving. Now imagine adding another 900 million people, and you get a sense of what it’s like.

Q: What have been your personal observations and experiences with the Lunar New Year? Any crazy travel stories?

A: My wife’s family is from Hong Kong so we don’t have to travel, but it’s quite normal for us to sit down to dinner with 67 immediate family members … some of whom have traveled from all corners of the world. There is a saying in Hong Kong: “Don’t go on holiday as everyone you know will be on holiday, so stay in Hong Kong and enjoy the peace and quiet.”

yay-15943958-digital

According to Shaun, it’s not that people in China don’t read news during the holiday; it’s just not a top priority. Chinese New Year is the one time of year when all workers can return home and, in essence, MUST return home. It is important for them to do so and it is expected that they will return with gifts for the whole family. And in the end, what’s more important: being present with family or reading up on news about listed companies?

Shaun’s advice, and mine, is to hold off on sending any news to China between the 18th and 24th of February.

And I will take this opportunity to remind you that it’s a best practice to always make sure the country to which you’re trying to send news is not on a holiday.  A quick check of timeanddate.com, bankholidays.com, officeholidays.com, or any similar site can save you time, resources and headaches when sending news internationally.

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