image from Online Reputation Management

Newspapers as we’ve known them are dying.  Datawatch recently posted results from a global study that found, “printed newspaper readership is now declining in almost all major economies.” The exception that they reported on was the New York Times (the NYT).  According to Datawatch,  the NYT was the only major American newspaper that saw an increase in readership.  While no one knows for sure why there has been an overall decline, most experts believe that it’s the result of “increased access to the internet and the spread of smartphones.” (Datawatch) Given that reasoning, it also stands to reason that if the NYT has increased it’s readership, that it’s  because they’ve figured out the importance of the internet – social media.

So then wouldn’t you expect that this same organization who seems to have mastered the ins and outs of the  social web would  recognize the critical importance of having a social media crisis response plan? And if they have one, or even if they don’t, wouldn’t you think that their editors, writers and other staff would be trained to put into action best practices for dealing with a social media crisis? I would think so.

But that doesn’t seem to generally be the case – at least if you judge the handling of a social media crisis by the NYT over this past week.   It all began with an obit published last weekend for acclaimed rocket scientist, Yvonne Brill. When you click HERE what you’re taken to is a revised version of what the NYT originally published.  It’s the original version that mainly caused the outrage that’s been vented on Twitter (#yvonnebrill), BLOGS and in the mainstream media on both sides of the Atlantic with the tagline: SEXIST.  The reason why? The original lede for the obit  was this:

She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.

Almost a week later, and the negative attention hasn’t died down.  One of the reasons is that the NYT’s has failed to respond effectively to the criticisms launched at them – not just by their critics and competition – but by loyal readers.  Many of their loyal readership have publicly questioned whether they should remain loyal. That’s a crisis, since as one expert writes”…one of the greatest risks for any news outlet is the risk of losing loyal readers.


Drawing upon lessons learned from the hundreds of examples of what to do (or not to do) in a social media crisis, here’s three suggestions of what the NYT could have done – should have done:

#1. Be Seen to Act Quickly.  First things first – in order to act quickly, you need to have been listening – to know what’s happening – when it’s happening – and where it’s happening.  You need to be monitoring all the major social media platforms, especially Twitter where bad news travels at the speed of – well, at the speed of Twitter! There is evidence that the NYT was listening, since they did respond with changing the lede – but it’s not enough that they acted by changing the first line of the obit.  They needed to act quickly where the fire was raging.  In this case (as with many social media crises) the public opinion fire that they needed to contain was on Twitter. and that’s where they needed to act quickly – along with changing the lede.  Unfortunately, they acted as if by doing one (changing the lede in the story), that the outpouring of outrage on Twitter would take care of itself and die down. Not so. You need to act quickly at the site of the outrage.

In the midst of getting wrong, there has been however a shining example among NYT staff.  An example of what should be done in cases of a social media crisis. That example is Public Editor Margaret Sullivan did exactly what should have been done.  Tweeting immediately in response to the criticisms.Unfortunately, her Twitter voice was the only voice that was heard immediately, and the voice of the obit editor and journalist are still not on Twitter.

#2. Put Some Thought Into What You’re Responding With.  How many times do people in positions of authority (equals responsibility) have to be told that they must be willing to apologize publicly? And if not apologize, at least acknowledge with humility people’s anger. The obit journalist – and his editor – may not have intended that the obit to be read as “sexist” – but it was read that way by many of their loyal readers – and critics.  Unfortunately, not only did the editor and the journalist  NOT apologize, they continue to try to defend what they’ve done.  All this despite the “what you should do” example provided to them by (again) their colleauge Margaret Sullivan who when she immediately responded on Twitter did so by acknowledging the outrage of those readers who were by now active online.  She wrote: “To the many who’ve tweeted at me about the Yvonne Brill obituary, I sure agree” – and she included a link to a Columbia Journalism Review article from just days earlier, which addressed the very issue of “gratuitous gender profiles of female scientists”.  Well played.  In under 140 characters she respectfully acknowledged the outrage and engaged her loyal followers.

Two days later, she provided another example of what to do, when she VERY HONESTLY blogged about the controversy, giving her colleagues another opportunity to publicly make things right.  Unfortunately, they again did not follow her lead – and instead (as stated above) took the position of defending what they’d done and saying they wouldn’t do anything differently.  This in turn refueled the outrage of their loyal reader – and the critics – so that almost a week later the criticisms continue to mount. These two men seem unable to set aside their egos and acknowledge the importance of their readership – or the power of their critics.

#3. Build a Community of Loyal Followers Ahead of Time. If you have built a loyal fan base they can help you through times of crisis by assisting with silencing the critics. Just don’t ignore them ever – especially during a crisis. It’s evident that Margaret Sullivan understands this point, and did exactly these things.  In her immediate tweet she writes, “To the many who’ve tweeted at me…”  It’s evident that Margaret has built up a loyal follower base that she nurtures, that she respects, that she listens to, and that she has two-way communication with. When the obit was published – even though she wasn’t the author of the piece or the editor, her loyal followers tweeted her with their concerns.  And, she responded in kind. Again, contrast this with the obit editor and obit journalist who are no where to be found on Twitter, whose only appearance online subsequent to the event has been in Margaret Sullivan’s blogpost.  They need to listen to and they need to engage with their loyal readers directly. It’s those people – those organization’s – that demonstrate they’re listening that maintain a successful online reputation that will take them through any crisis and out the other side. …maybe even adding a few more loyal followers along the way.


 So there you have it, in a single example of a social media crisis you have one individual whose doing so much right – and at the same time, you’ve got others in the same organization who couldn’t get it more wrong.  For the sake of the NYT and it’s survival, let’s hope that they learn to take Margaret Sullivan’s lead.



Continuing this week with the social media measurement discussion…

I look at examples of FREE and PAID social media measurement tools that claim to provide value to measuring a social web program.

By now, most public relations professionals would agree with the idea that in order to be successful, p.r. practitioners need to know what and how to measure, and how to present their results.  Quoting from the PRSA website:

Measurement and evaluation are critical elements of every public relations practitioner’s professional competencies and are central to making a “case” for public relations.

In the past few years, there’s been alot written about the latest and the greatest social media measurement tools. Some offer limited tracking and reporting.  Others offer to “do it all”. Some are free. Some are VERY pricey.

Let’s look at some examples of what’s out there – and what they can offer the public relation’s practitioner.


Let’s start with three examples of FREE social media measurement tools that provide value to measuring a social web program.

(1) HootSuite

I’m starting with HootSuite, because it’s the one I’m familiar with. It’s been highly recommended by colleagues who use it successfully for their small businesses. All of them use the free service.

That’s right, free. While you need to pay for their premium products, HootSuite continues to offer a free social media dashboard.  The dashboard allows you to monitor and manage what’s happening on your various social media accounts – all in one place.  These media accounts include the most popular sites: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Google+ Pages.  Additionally (and still for free), HootSuite has a function that allows you to create your own (customized) reports with advanced tools like network stats, Facebook Insights and Google Analytics.

In terms of the triple A’s (last week’s post), from what I know so far, it allows you to track alot of the web activities under all three.  Could be more than this, but here’s an idea:

Action includes: clicks, retweets, shares, wallposts, comments, @replies, and RSS feed activity (and likely what replaces it).

Attitude (or influence) includes:  sentiment, share of voice, volume of interest and influencer mentions/reports.

Attention (or exposure) includes: visits, views, followers, fans, subscribers and brand mentions.

It seems to me that HootSuite is a great option for public relations practitioners who represent clients with established (or they will establish for their late adopter clients) identities on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

(2) MyTopTweet

Another tool that has great potential for providing value to measuring a social web program is “My Top Tweet” by TwitSprout.  This one is interesting since what it  monitors is limited to Twitter and Facebook. Using Twitter as an example, the tool will allow you to:

  • track which tweets got the most retweets,
  • the number of times they were retweeted,
  • compare your activity with competitors,
  • you can track particular trends, businesses and influencers,
  • determine the time of day that your followers or fans are active, so that you can determine the best times to tweet or post, and
  • there’s something called a “help layer” which layers tips over your dashboard metrics, and gives you possible insights and tips into on audience engagement and growth

Again, you can see how this falls under the “Triple A’s”.

This tool would be potentially attractive to organizations like mine (government agency) that have limited their social media activity to Twitter and Facebook or one or the other.


If you’re on LinkedIn like I am, you may have received notice of your KLOUT score. KLOUT identifies and tracks influence and influencers.

How? It measures influence based on a person’s or organization’s ability to drive action on social networks.  Using Twitter activity as an example, they explain their tool this way:

The majority of the signals used to calculate the Klout Score are derived from combinations of attributes, such as the ratio of reactions you generate compared to the amount of content you share. For example, generating 100 retweets from 10 tweets will contribute more to your Score than generating 100 retweets from 1,000 tweets. We also consider factors such as how selective the people who interact with your content are. The more a person likes and retweets in a given day, the less each of those individual interactions contributes to another person’s score. Additionally, we value the engagement you drive from unique individuals. One-hundred retweets from 100 different people contribute more to your Score than do 100 retweets from a single person.

The Klout Score currently is connected to networks that include LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Foursquare and interestingly, Wikipedia. As for the Triple A’s, this is about tracking “Attitude” – influencers who can drive “Action” and “Attention”.


And, finally – an example of what you get if you can pay for a social media measurement tool. 

The example: ViralHeat

I chose it not because the name is cool (although I think it is), but because of it’s promise: “social media simplified: a unified suite”. When you think about it, that’s really the promise of all of these tools.  So what additional value is there when you pay for a tool?

In the case of ViralHeat the additional value is that it’s a comprehensive tool that allows you to several options to monitor, measure, report AND engage at the same time:

  • Monitor conversations across the social web,
  • Manage multiple accounts (for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+),
  • Publish media content to multiple sites, and
  • Analytics that are tailored to social media (example identifying and tracking influencers and sentiment)

In addition to monitoring and managing the Triple A’s, you have publishing and analytics all in one place. The the difference between what is free and what you pay for  is these additional options along with the level of sophistication of the monitoring, analysis and reporting.

The price? $99.99/mo. $1200/year. Worth it? Maybe. Could you make a business case for it? Maybe.

So, FREE or PAID – what tool is the best option for measuring your social media program?

Even if budget is no option – whether you or your boss should pay for a service depends on what additional value that tool can offer you above and beyond what the free options offer. In light of your goals and objectives, what social media avenues will give you the information you need?  How far will you need to drill down to “make the p.r. business case”?  And, will the tool let you drill down?

Even considering this small sample, it’s clear that there’s isn’t one BEST tool. The answer to what tool to use – what measurement tool provides the best value to you when measuring your social web programs – is unique to the social web program you’ve developed for your client.  And of course, even once you’ve identified what seems like the best for a program type will continue to evolve as the tools continue to evolve.


PostScript – One more FREE oneWordPress

At the top of this wordpress blog (when I’m signed in) I can see a graph.  When I click on this graph, what pops up are measurements called “traffic stats” that include for example views and visitors, how many, when, what countries they are from, along with what topics are the most popular and who are the most active among my commentators.  While this blog hasn’t been active long enough to give me alot of feedback that allows for insights. On the other hand, I have other wordpress blogs where I post stories that I write.  I’ve been tracking the activity for different types of stories to help me to understand what “my public” enjoys most with the intention that one day soon I’ll approach a publisher, and say – look at these analytics.  This is how many people liked what I wrote, and who they are.

a p

Author, Olivier Blanchard, in his book “Social Media ROI” writes:

“It is easy to get sidetracked by typical social media metrics that don’t have much of a bearing on business objectives. Focus on establishing a social media program measurement practice that caters to an organization, not a celebrity. Popularity and popularity metrics are not necessarily what you want to spend alot of time and energy on.” (at p. 195 )

As Blanchard points out, in all areas of  business, including public relations, it’s not about about the level of celebrity (fans and likes or the amount of retweets) unless that celebrity can be converted into a measurable outcome that furthers an organization’s goals.

So, how do we measure the ROI of social media?

The first response to that is that we’re still learning.  The area of social media metrics continues to evolve.  Thanks to sites like “Social Media Monitoring Wiki” or “Social Media Monitoring Review” the latest tools are continually laid at the pr professionals doorstep.  But how do you choose?  Even if money is no object (lucky you) – you still need a way to determine what’s best for your organization.

How do we stay focused?

Again, referring back to Blanchard’s quote above – social media measurement needs to have a bearing on business goals and objectives.  A useful way to keep the pr practitioner “[focused] on establishing a social media program measurement practice that caters to an organization” is to apply the triple A’s: Action, Attitude and Attention.

Action includes: clicks, retweets, shares, wallposts, comments, @replies, webcast attendees, downloads, and RSS feed subscriptions (or whatever replaces it).

Attitude (or influence) includes:  sentiment, share of voice, volume of interest and influencer mentions/reports.

Attention (or exposure) includes: visits, views, followers, fans, subscribers and brand mentions.

(for a slightly different take see: “The Evolution of Social Media MeasurementMarch 21, 2012)

The Triple A’s and conversion

All or some of the metrics listed under the triple A’s may be valuable and should be considered as potentially part of your p.r. social media measurement strategy. But for most organizations they are the means and not the end.  The intangibles that make up actions, attitudes and attentions need to be converted into tangible objectives (such as sales) that in turn allow an organization to achieve their goals –  whether those goals are financial or say, getting re-elected.

By monitoring and tracking actions, attitudes and attentions correlations can be drawn between them and tangible objectives such as frequency (buy rate), reach (number of new customers) and yield (average dollar value of a transaction) (Blanchard at Chapter 16). Decisions can then be made based on patterns that emerge.

Oreo as an example

However, we need to be cautious around the conclusions we draw. Correlations there may be.  Cause and effect – not so clear. Say for example, after Oreo’s brilliant Superbowl tweet that Oreo sales went up.  Based on this, it would be tempting to conclude that your ROI can be directly equated with the number of Twitter followers you have.  But what if it wasn’t the number of followers, but the number of retweets, or what if it was because of the influencers who mentioned the ad.  Or was it a combination? And, were the sales the result of new Oreo cookie buyers or were they loyal buyers who bought more?  We need to drill down like all good researchers do, asking questions, testing hypotheses and measuring over time to truly understand what is having an impact and why, so that we know what’s been successful – and what’s worth further investing in.

It all fits together like a jig-saw puzzle – necessary to expand and grow

As Maggie Fox (Social Media Today) penned, “Every part of the social media measurement evolution journey has brought value to evaluating the impact of Social on Leads and Sales.  Moreover, every measurement remains important but should not be represented on its own; they all fit together like a jig-saw puzzle and provide input necessary to expand and grow engagement and lead generation opportunities.”

How best can a PR practitioner charged with the community manager role serve both the needs of the online community and the requirements of his or her organization to meet business objectives?


In order to ensure success, the story goes that the greek goddess Ceres employed lesser gods to assist her. Among them was Conditor whose job it was to be maker, builder, framer, establisher, founder, author and compiler (1). Add to this list energetic – and energizer, patient dialoguer, and strategist and what you have is a PR practitioner charged with the social media community manager role.  In some ways, this conditor has a long history, in other ways we’re breaking new ground, and in all ways the job requires an investment in time and resources in order to ensure that an organization meets their business objectives.

a long history…

Public relations has always been about communication for the purpose of achieving organizational objectives. The public relations practitioner must understand the organization’s business goals, develop strategies, create relevant content, engage with stakeholder publics, analyze data and stay up to date on topics, trends and tools.  This list could have been developed for any number of public relations practitioners for the past hundred years  – but it wasn’t. The list appeared on February 20, 2013 in a post titled, “The 6 Things Your Social Media Manager Must Do To Expand Your Online Presence.” (2)  What we recognize from this list is that the core responsibilities of public relations practitioners has remained the same.  In carrying out these activities, it’s often been referred to as managing, because it’s been very much about controlling.  The public relations manager’s job has been to control what was said about their organization, who said it and who it was said to.  The messaging has been meant to engage the key audience (publics) by appealing to their needs and interests for the sole purpose of achieving the organizations objectives.  In order to identify needs and interests, publics were listened to, but that “listening” was in very limited, and again, controlled ways. The public relations conditor was always a maker, builder, framer, establisher, founder, author and compiler. It worked.  And then, the world changed.

breaking new ground..,

Along came social media and with it not just the ability to connect and communicate like never before, but a shift in expectations about how publics can and should interact with organizations, and how in turn organizations should interact with them.  The most telling shift in the role of the public relations practitioner is the change in referring to the organizational audience as “communities” rather than stakeholders or publics.  Quoting Dr. Michael Wu, Lithium’s Principal Scientist of Analytics, communities are:

  1. Held together by some common interests of a large group of people. Although there may be pre-existing interpersonal relationship between members of a community, it is not required. So new members usually do not know most of the people in the community.
  2. Any one person may be part of many communities.
  3. They have overlapping and nested structure.  (3)

In the connected online communities, for public relations practitioners it has become less about managing or controlling the organization’s brand, and more about engaging with the community – as the voice or face of the organization.  To be successful on behalf of their organization, the public relations conditor needs to be an energetic and energizing strategic dialoguer who continually engages with the organization’s communities.  The use of the word “dialoguer” is an important one, because it is meant to convey what William Isaacs describes as “the promise of thinking together”.  He writes, “The problems that even the most practical organizations have –in improving their performance and obtaining the results they desire –can be traced directly to their inability to think and talk together, particularly at critical moments.” (4)  By dialoguing with our communities in the way Isaacs encourages us to do, public relations community managers – or conditors (since it’s not about controlling) will lead the dialogues instead of worrying about what is said about our organizations.  Organizations who are taking this approach from Oreos to Starbucks to Virgin have proven this works.  Their organization are viewed as “in tune” and they not only prove themselves relevant to their existing communities, but find themselves growing their communities – and, brand loyalty along with it.

investment in time and resources…

It was no accident that I chose the story of Ceres.  In greek mythology, she is the goddess of agriculture.  In order to have a successful harvest, she called upon her specialists, her conditors. To succeed the conditor knew what the group wanted to grow.  They knew where and how to till the ground.  They closely monitored the environmental conditions, and how what they had sewn was growing. They used the best tools available to them, and hoped for the best weather conditions.  If the weather didn’t cooperate, the skilled conditor adjusted.  This analogy could have always worked for public relations.  It still does.

What is too often overlooked in a story like this one is not just the skill that is required, but that the conditor, in this case the public relations conditor, must also be given the time and resources to succeed.  This requires both recognition and investment from the “C-suite”.

conclusion… summing up

According to the “2012 Global multichannel consumer survey” conducted by PwC, “60% of respondents use social media to follow, discover, and give feedback on brands and retailers”. (5)  As discussed here, the expectation that comes along with this is that the PR practitioner charged with the community manager role needs to be directly engaged with both the organization’s business objectives and their communities. In order to successfully serve both the needs of the online community and achieve their organizations business objectives, the public relations practitioner can no longer be a manager in the traditional sense, but instead must expand the role to one of a conditor that energetically engages their communities in dialogue.  And, as stated above (cannot be too often repeated) this requires investment from the C-suite.

giving credit where credit’s due!

(1)Perseus 4.0 , Perseus Digital Library, Tufts University (n.d.)  Latin Word Study Tool 

(2)Curry, Jenna. (February 20, 2013)  The 6 Things Your Social Media Manager Must Do To Expand Your Online Presence

(3) Wu, Michael Ph.D. (June 6, 2010) Community vs. Social Network

(4) Isaacs, William.  Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together  (1999) New York: Currency and Doubleday, at page 3.

(5) PwC. 2012 Global multichannel consumer survey


This classic painting by Chagall tells a story.

It engages the eye, the heart and the mind. It’s reality, presented in a way that grabs and holds the attention of the audience. In telling a story, it makes a promise, in fact more than one, depending on who the audience is.  Am I speaking about the painting, or the goal of p.r.? Both.

That’s why it’s no surprise that from the beginning images have been used by p.r. in our strategies to engage our publics. Like any good story, images can help make our p.r. story better – we can often relate to the images, get excited by them, or learn from them.

an ad

But somewhere along the line, it seems that images took a credibility hit – and words took over.

  a woman

If the story p.r. was telling needed to be taken seriously – that is, have credibility and be believed – then words needed to dominate, sometimes to the absolute exclusion of the image.

a toy

The WORD became all powerful as p.r. professionals sweated over the impact of certain (loaded or unloaded) words, the placement of words in a document, along with the size of words, when to repeat words, the rise to GLORY of the use of bolding, italics, fonts – of FANCY adjectives and adverbs – and of course – all important – punctuation – most notably,  when to exclamate!

And, then the world changed.

a web

All those stories that p.r. had created and continues to create for different publics  were now, are now, all part of a connected whole, so that it feels like this:

a p

This is our reality. We’re not going to ever return to the time of Chagall, when there was just one “circus is coming” poster in our town.

So, what’s the answer for public relations? How do we drive our stories through the clutter to our identified publics? How do we get and keep their attention? And, how do we ensure that the message is trusted?

One way is data visualization.  According to Vitaly Friedman,

The main goal of data visualization is its ability to visualize data, communicating information clearly and effectively. …providing insights into a rather sparse and complex data set by communicating its key-aspects in a more intuitive way.

In this article, Friedman goes on to provide what he refers to as,

spectacular data visualizations and infographics which manage to combine a strong visual appeal with the effective presentation of information.

Many p.r. experts agree with Friedman, and there is a growing body of literature in p.r.  on the importance of once again embracing images and incorporating them into our storytelling.  At a TED talk in 2010, former journalist David McCandless gave an incredible talk on the subject called: The Beauty of Data Visualization.  Through the use of images, including infographics, McCandless takes you on an engaging journey that sells the importance of p.r. professionals using visual tools to tell our stories in a way that helps our publics manage information overload. A way for publics to find our stories, understand and believe our stories.

That’s great, and I’m sold! But unfortunately, not all clients are as prepared to jump on board with the idea of needing images as part of our content strategies.

As Ceri-Jane Hackling wrote in The importance of images in PR”

As PR professionals, one of the biggest problems we face is clients who don’t understand the importance of images… 

I can attest to the lack of readiness among some of my client-decision makers.  They remain in the era of “words need to dominate – to the exclusions of the image – if we are to be seen as credible”. They would be much more comfortable with the last half of this post, than the first half.

But you know, that’s where the role of p.r. becomes one of expert adviser.  We must find ways to convince them that if  we are to be successful  – if our messages are to be heard, and to be trusted, we must engage our publics using data visualization.  In the same article, Hackling has some suggestions on how to convince our clients that in a “connected” world, images are critical to successful p.r. strategies (here).

And, change is happening. Even among some of the most conservative types – government – the message about the importance of images in p.r. content seems to be getting out there.

Here are some great examples of where data visualization is being used, from the use of event photographs that publics can relate to or that speak of a journey or just plain excite you when you see them to the use of infographics and graphic novels that explain complex information:

And, shock of all shocks – a REAL WINNER! – including the use of a GRAPHIC NOVEL

We’ve still got a long way to go as p.r. strategists in convincing all of our clients of the importance of images to our content.  They need to understand that we get it that pictures will never replace words, nor should they.  They’re meant to grab our publics’ attention and help tell the story. Done right, they’re a simple but powerful way to engage our publics in dynamic and meaningful ways – just like Chagall did… only in our world, they “paint back”.

Note: Sexism and other “isms” reflected in the “vintage ads”  found for this post, and other advertising images – found everywhere, including those not so “vintage”, to be addressed at a future date.  For now, please join me in a collective sigh, argh and NO MORE!! (add as many capitals and explanation marks as you can muster)

Here are THREE infographs that do a great job of summarizing the elements of  P.R. content strategy.

What do they have in common?  Everyone of them gives us information and direction (to varying degrees).  Each of them answers the how, what, where, when, why – and reminds us about the “who” of content strategy.  In every case the  pictures and stats are used to limit text and in this way convey the message in an engaging – and therefore memorable – way.


a infograph

I’ve listed this infograph as number ONE, because in looking at it your eye is drawn to key messages first.   These are:

1. Thought Leadership.  This is a code-phrase in business for: innovative thinking.  As depicted in the infograph, for p.r., this means sourcing what they’ve listed (eg. blogs, podcasts, infographics, whitepapers) along with what’s just over the horizon.

2. It’s not just about Content. This idea is captured by way of a quote from Amit Singhal (sr. vp at GOOGLE): “Fundamentally it’s not just about content. It’s about identity, relationships and content.”  One can not be considered separate from the other.

3. Quality Content at the Heart. Captured inside the image of the heart, is the message that what is most important is quality content to a targeted public.

The image of a body captures the idea of an integrated whole. Every element is important in order for the body (in this case the p.r. content strategy) to function at an optimal level.  Proof of this is provided in the stats that are listed along with the elements, from increased visibility (“blogs on company sites result in 55% more visitors”) to higher trust levels from customers (“blogs are 63% more likely to influence purchase decisions than a magazine”) to increased customer loyalty (“60% of customers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site”).

While it’s identified for marketing, all of the content strategy elements outlined equally apply to public relations.


a content

This infograph has alot of the same ideas as Number One – but without the details. It’s would serve as a great reminder  once you’ve got a good  handle on content strategy (like Number One gives you).  It’s a combination a “cheat sheet” and motivator! Just like the infograph above, it starts with a core principle:

Content for online brand visibility needs to be well written, fluid, dynamic and shared.

From there, you follow the path of key elements listed under each of these stages:



8 info

This infographic poses 8 “essential” questions to pose when designing an infographic.  However, when you read them – they’re also a great short list for planning ANY content strategy:

1. Do I really have something to say?
2. What’s the goal?
3. Who’s my audience?
4. Who’s the hierarchy, or emphasis? (or what?)
5. How will I tell the story?
6. What visual tools should I use?
7. Will it be engaging?
8. Who will I ask for feedback?

It’s a great checklist, especially for those of us at the learning stage.


As great as these three infographs are they’re lacking. They don’t capture everything we need to consider to be successful.  For example, I’m currently (again) working on content for a webcast.  I can tell you that I could not accomplish what needs to get done without a Team.  It’s therefore no surprise to me that in this “Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy for the Web” the number one “thing to know” is that content strategy requires teamwork.

Still, it seems to me that they’re a great tool – something to post on your wall and refer back to – whether you’re just starting out, or a seasoned content strategist.

Come on QR code – surprise me!

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Module 3

guardian_qrcode460x276It was last May that I made the decision to take a social media class.  The reason?  I’d read an article in the guardian (here) suggesting ways that charities could use QR codes.  The headline promised that, “QR codes can be used to engage donors and make their donation journey quick and easy – and they’re free to create.”  It went on to describe various successful p.r. campaigns in the U.K. that have used QR codes to direct people to information (awareness around issues) and easy ways to help (volunteer, membership and fundraising).

While I found this interesting – and I’m in this course because it made me realize how far we’ve come with social media – I couldn’t have been one of the charitable people that made these campaigns successful – not because I don’t give – but because until this past Sunday – my smartphone didn’t have a QR reader.

I’ve seen the little decorative boxes on pamphlets, food packaging, posters in the subway, and ads on television.  But, when I found out that my smartphone didn’t come loaded with a “decoder” I lost interest. As much as the guardian article had sparked excitement in me for digital p.r. – I couldn’t be bothered to search, download and pay an additional fee.  Then Boyd offered up this week’s assignment challenge.  Since I’m already a Foursquare user, and I know a fair bit about HUDS (since I love sci-fi),what was left were those little squares.  So, I broke down and loaded the QR Droid onto my smartphone (wasn’t hard at all – and it was free).

The single biggest learning this past week has been how wide-spread the use of these little squares has become.  It seems that since I wasn’t looking for them, I hadn’t noticed their increase in popularity.  While there are still some nay-sayers out there, a simple look through my mail this week supports the view that they’re not dead nor dying. In an August, 2012 article on QR codes in Ragan’s PR Daily (here), Hubspot‘s head of advertising, Doug Slagen was quoted as saying, “With more sophisticated technology being in the hands of a larger percentage of the masses, there will be a paralleled growth with QR codes as their general applicability lies with smartphones.”  I think he’s right. Especially now that more and more android devices come equipped with the readers (many of you won’t/don’t have to any longer take that extra step like I did).

So, if that’s the case, if more of us will have/have already the ability to access what’s in those tantalizing little boxes – then p.r. has some real opportunities to connect with our publics.

I mean, I love the idea of  these little boxes. Looking at them, they remind me of the surprise bags we used to buy as kids.  In the same way I couldn’t wait to open up those bags to see what goodies were inside, over the past few days, I’ve been scanning like crazy to find out what surprises these boxes hold.  Mostly, it’s been disappointing – the content was boring, not interesting, not engaging, not even necessarily informative.  BUT – then came this! —

Embedded in the same Ragan’s PR Daily article (referred to above) was a link to inspiration:  Emart Sunny Sale Campaign – 3D Shadow QR Code . You’ve got to watch this video! I love this! I love it not just because of where the QR Code takes people (to the store site for deals), but the imagination that thought to create a 3D code that’s a sculpture that works with light and shadow.  Look at the faces of the people crowded around.  As the video voice over says, what has been created is “a unique experience”.  And what a result, not only did sales increase (marketing) but membership increased 58% (p.r.) and there was alot of media coverage (p.r.) evidenced not just by what “the voice” says in the video, but also by what comes up when you do a simple search.

So, now I had HOPE for the QR code and what was possible for p.r. because of them. And then, I found this – a Technorati article (here) published just yesterday (January 29th/2013) with the title: Umbrella Public Relations Stunt Achieves World Record Claim (here).


As part of a p.r. campaign, a company in China – that claims to be the world’s largest golf facility – created the world’s largest QR code using people holding umbrellas.  Inspired!

According to the report in Technorati, “The QR Code was formed by nearly 2,000 staff carrying umbrellas and an aerial photograph was taken from a height of 270 feet so that the code could be used in Press Releases.” 

The Sunny Sale Campaign had given me hope.  Add to that the Umbrella Campaign and I’m now a believer!

So, here I am almost a year since I read that article in the guardian and I’m a QR code convert.  From (1) charities to (2) box stores to (3) the world’s largest golf facility – QR codes can help us engage our publics in new, inspired – and surprising – p.r. ways!