• 22Jul

    Analyzing the Data I have always believed the old saw, “You get what you pay for.” Life experience tells me that free services often don’t have much of a payoff, or to use another old bromide, “There is no free lunch.” However, I have identified an exception that proves the rule – free press release sites. There are a growing number of online locations where you can post news releases at no cost, and they actually do have a huge positive impact on search rankings.

    I recently ran across a blog post at BigNewsBiz.com, one of the free news sites, which, albeit biased had some interesting insights. Phil Davies of BigNews.biz LLC notes that free press releases sites have a real impact on rankings. As he posted to one of my LinkedIn groups:

    “I kept seeing press releases from these free press release sites showing up in page 1 Google search results and page 1 on Google News. In some cases beating out results from major media outlets.”

    Davies cites some specific criteria he uses to determine the value of free web sites, including page rank, Google News tracking, the amount of traffic, and how complex the rules are for acceptance (i.e. releases rejected for various reasons). He then lists his top 15 free press release sites based on their Alexa ratings.

    I actually just completed an exercise for a client that demonstrates the value of free press release sites. This client is a small start-up that just completed a second round of seed funding – rather small by venture capital standards. To save money, we decided to bypass the conventional paid wire service (which can run into thousands of dollars if you’re not careful). Instead, I used a combination of e-mail pitches to targeted media outlets and we got some great results, including a pickup by Dow Jones. I am still waiting to see how the search rankings fall out among the major search engines, but I’m confident that, based on the early results, the free release site strategy is going to pay off.

    All that said, the paid wire services also have real value, depending on your requirements. If you are a publicly traded company and disclosure is a concern, you can’t beat using one of the big three – PR Newswire, BusinessWire, or MarketWire. I have been following another LinkedIn discussion about which is the best wire service, and one of the contributors from China, Jonah Guo, sums up some of the value of the paid services quiet well:

    “It depends what your clients’ need. If they just want some results while you research Google, you can use any wire. You do not even need to pay if you write a search-engine-friendly press releases. However, if your clients want serious PR, the commercial wires can help you. For example, SEOpressreleases.com and other cheap wires cannot feed Factiva, where most researchers find their info, and which archives your press releases for 20 years.”

    Do you have hard and fast rules for using release wire services? What are your PR objectives and how do you use wire services to achieve them? How do you build the paid and free wire services into your best PR practices?

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  • 15Jul

    After 20 years, Octavia Nasr won’t be reporting on Middle East Affairs for CNN following her controversial Twitter post in pimageraise of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who passed away last week. The CNN editorial team took great exception to Nasr’s 140-character post, which gave her enough space to offer praise of Fadlallah, without allowing her to provide the additional information that the praise stemmed directly from the cleric’s positive views on woman’s rights. However, too little space was too much for CNN’s editorial team. As noted in the online media watchdog Mediaite:

    Nasr’s initial tweet mourning the death of Fadlallah said, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” It was almost immediately called out by several sources, including Newsbusters and the Jerusalem Post. Also today the Simon Wiesenthal Center (“one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations”) formally denounced the remarks and called for CNN to take action.

    Well, CNN did take action and summarily dismissed Nasr. As Parisa Khosravi, Senior Vice President for CNN International Newsgathering explained in an internal memo:

    I had a conversation with Octavia this morning and I want to share with you that we have decided that she will be leaving the company. As you know, her tweet over the weekend created a wide reaction. As she has stated in her blog on CNN.com, she fully accepts that she should not have made such a simplistic comment without any context whatsoever. However, at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.

    As a colleague and friend we’re going to miss seeing Octavia everyday. She has been an extremely dedicated and committed part of our team. We thank Octavia for all of her hard work and we certainly wish her all the best.

    Parisa.

    So what does this tell us about the power of social media? Was this an overreaction on the part of CNN? Are they giving Twitter too much power – it takes some effort to be concise in 140 characters, which is the beauty and the beast of Twitter. This is a prime example of how you have to be extremely careful about everything you post online. Your online brand needs to be sacrosanct, and you need always need to think before you post.

    But was this an overreaction? It was a mistake in intent, if not in judgment, but does the punishment fit the crime? And how would you approach the same issue for employees in your organization? When do you hold employees accountable for every drunken frat picture or racist slur they post on Facebook? How far do your policies and procedures extend to “appropriate” social media use, and how much should employees be given latitude to express themselves?

    I think one of the real challenges is the blurred lines between professional and personal brands. If you are blogging or posting for your employer, which many of us do, then the lines are clearly drawn. But what about personal posts that spill into our professional lives? Facebook and other social media sites typically ask for employment data, but does that mean we are using social media for professional purposes, or that we should be held accountable to a professional standard?

    In this case, Nasr may have had a lapse in judgment, and the punishment meted out may seem harsh in light of the offense. Still, her Twitter feed was clearly an extension of her job, her professional brand, and CNN has a right to protect its brand and its reputation. But did CNN go too far? Would your online activities measure up to the same standard?

    I have to ask myself if we are giving social media too much power, especially in this case. It’s one thing to demonstrate a pattern of hate speech or a consistent opinion that might rankle management. It’s something else to make a mistake. So before you hit that “post” button, think twice about what you are saying and its possible consequences.

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  • 07Jul

    bad-twitter-300x212 I have been working on a social media strategy for a client whose target market is the banking industry – not consumers but professional bankers. So the question arises, do bankers use social media? The answer, of course, is yes and no. There certainly are LinkedIn forums that specialize in bank marketing and bank-related issues. But are Facebook and Twitter a logical extension of a social media campaign aimed at a narrow professional audience?

    I recently read about a new study from Edison Research that debunks a lot of the conventional wisdom from other marketing experts about the power of Twitter. According to the article posted on Marketing Charts, while there is a high recognition level for Twitter, recognition does not necessarily turn into action:

    “The Edison study doesn’t discount the popularity of Twitter – in fact it reports that 87% of respondents have heard of Twitter, compared to 88% who had heard of Facebook. The findings also suggest that Twitter users are hyper-aware of brands on Twitter. The study found that 42% learn about products and services via Twitter and 41% provide opinions about products/services. An additional 19% seek customer support. A grand total of 49% follow brands or companies….
    “Here is the rub: the data also suggests that Twitter users do not necessarily convert brand awareness to usage, Social Media Today says. Although 87% of Americans have heard of Twitter – only 7% actually use it. Compare that to Facebook, where 88% have heard of it, and 41% have a profile, which is a conversion rate approaching 50%, Social Media Today notes.Clearly some companies belong on Twitter – namely brands that are seeking to shape consumers’ opinions and possibly engage them in a conversation.”

    So Twitter is not a marketing panacea (but what is?). The study reveals that there are some companies that probably won’t benefit from a Twitter campaign, including:

    • Companies that don’t have a mobile strategy or presence. There is a strong correlation between Twitter and handheld devices (63 percent of Twitter users access the network from a mobile device, and 73 percent send SMS text messages).
    • Mass-market brands with well-known products will probably not benefit from a Twitter program. These consumers already have a well-formed opinion about such brands, and a Twitter discussion may create more opportunities to denigrate the brand rather than support it.
    • Small businesses that don’t have a strong online or social media presence. This seems like a no-brainer. If you haven’t created an online marketing foundation, then Twitter can’t help you build an online presence. As a micro-blogging tool, Twitter is an ideal extension of other promotional programs, giving y9ou another opportunity to drop online bread crumbs that lead back to home base. It doesn’t function well on its own, without a foundation.

    I also have to wonder about the value of Twitter for targeted marketing programs aimed at a niche group, like bankers. My own research shows that bankers are using Twitter as part of their own programs to attract new depositors, which makers perfect sense. Banks and credit unions want to leverage social media to communicate directly with customers, but are bankers turning to Twitter to learn about banking trends and rates? It’s hard to say. However, if you can find a way to offer insightful, valuable information in 140 characters or less,  then you can build a strong Twitter following, or at least include Twitter as part of your strategy to get prospects to find the path to your online doorstep.

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