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press release IV

Next month marks the 100th birthday of the press release. On October 28, 1906, more than 50 people lost their lives when one of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s new electric service trains jumped the track and plunged into Thoroughfare Creek near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Pennsylvania Railroad was a client of Ivy Lee, a publicity expert who is largely considered to be a father of modern public relations. Concerned about the potential for bad press and negative media speculation, Lee wrote and distributed the first-ever press release on behalf of the railroad. He issued an announcement about the incident to all major newspapers, and also invited members of the press to ride a specially-designated train out to survey and document the scene for themselves. The approach was widely applauded for being open and honest. And the strategy was considered revolutionary. Not only did it facilitate journalists doing their job of providing accurate reporting, but it helped put rumors to rest, shoring up the brand and its side of the story.

Some may argue that the press release’s time has come and gone. But, here at AMPED, we have been successfully growing the media presence of our clients in industry publications, and a key component of our strategy revolves around using press releases. They remain a great way to spread the word out about our clients, while building their credibility and branding. While no longer considered even remotely revolutionary, press releases have certainly come a long way since Ivy Lee’s time.

I have compiled ideas below to help you maximize your time and effort put into using press releases.

Writing and preparation
Today, the content of a press release is often published as it is written, especially online, so write as if you are preparing an article for your target reader’s direct consumption. Focus more on the story and less on the accomplishments and accolades. Include photos, video, infographs and other assets that will help media outlets convey your story.

Consider how your press release fits into your sales process cycle. Every press release should include a call to action. Let readers know what you want them to do.

Finally, make sure your press release is optimized for SEO by including key words and using text links back to relevant web pages.

Use this opportunity to develop and strengthen your relationship with your industry publication contacts. Rather than sending a blanket communication to your entire contact list, send it out individually, communicating why your story matters to the audience they serve, asking if they will consider featuring your content and exploring how you might continue to work together in the future.

Finally, don’t forget about social media. Repurpose key nuggets from your press release into sharable social media content. And, certainly, amplify the effects of any resulting media coverage by promoting it through all your social media channels.

Just this morning, a colleague shared that she had received two requests for additional information from media who received a press release from us last week. The press release is not dead, but the times have changed.

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Several years ago it was all the rage for company presidents and executives to write a blog. The idea was to give one’s organization a voice of leadership beyond the motto, mission statement or "about us" page.

In theory, this is excellent. Since the executive is the visionary and chief cheerleader to the organization and its members or customers, she should have a voice both internally and publically to manage morale, politics and issues the company or association faces.

But creating a well thought-out post of 500-750 words can take hours of writing and editing. To establish and maintain a public presence, some CEOs and presidents have taken to having a ghost writer write their weekly post. This could backfire however, as the writer may not capture or channel exactly how the executive speaks or communicates. The constituency or membership may say ghostwriting is inauthentic and is contrary to the spirit of the idea of the president blogging to begin with.

There is another way, with a little time, to capture your president’s thoughts, share them with your customers or members, and perhaps even make a deeper impact.

How? Video. You’ve probably already heard that video is becoming the medium on which we are all learning, searching, communicating. It’s not inconceivable that YouTube will surpass even Google as a search engine.

CSIA 2016 complete the survey

You can create a simple video in less than 15 minutes a week that may, for all intents and purposes, be more powerful than a blog. Check out this video we made with AMPED President Lynda J. Patterson. Here Lynda addresses attendees of an upcoming association partner conference and builds anticipation. And here, in a post-conference video, she asks attendees to complete the conference evaluation.

I shot and edited these videos on my iPhone, and uploaded them to YouTube. Both took me fewer than 10 minutes to complete. Lynda put together a few bullet points, rehearsed briefly, and executed these well.

I like them because they don’t look too polished, but are professional enough to send out to the masses. These didn’t cost us any studio time or any money other than the initial investment in inexpensive equipment, totaling $125, plus a smartphone. You don’t need a studio or expensive equipment, just a smartphone, lapel mic, a tripod and a mount

I recommend that you reference my article, “Four key elements to shooting better videos” for some easy tips and tricks to making videos very easy and accessible.

Good Luck!

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A call from a reporter is an opportunity for you and your association to share valuable information and build your reputation among readers and viewers. A little preparation will help you get your message out and pave the way for future interviews.

  1. Ask who the reporter’s audience is, if you’re not familiar with the publication. Consider the audience and their knowledge level, and then tailor your comments accordingly.
  2. Identify what you believe is most newsworthy to his or her readers. You have a limited time to tell your story, so get to the point.
  3. Make sure you know the basics, i.e., the five Ws and H: Who will benefit? What is new or innovative? When will an event occur? Where? Why is this important? How does this advance knowledge?
  4. Be prepared with some short anecdotes and examples. Reporters will be looking for information that helps their readers relate to your comments. While you should have one or two stories in mind, be careful to avoid scripting your comments.
  5. Speak slowly; allow the reporter time to take notes.
  6. Avoid using acronyms and technical jargon.
  7. Don’t speculate. If you don’t know the answer to a question, offer to investigate and follow up with a response.
  8. End the interview by summarizing your two or three main points.
  9. Offer to share photos, graphics or links to videos that illustrate the subject. Visuals can be as simple as your head shot or your organization’s logo – anything that will add color and draw the eye to the article.
  10. Make sure the reporter has your correct name, title and organization’s name. Offer your contact information and volunteer to answer follow-up questions. Do not ask to review the article before publication.

Four Bonus Tips for Video and Audio Interviews

  1. Remember to take a millisecond break between sentences. The reporter may not be able to use your entire response. A brief pause allows for editing, without cutting you off or omitting your comment entirely.
  2. Repeat the subject of the question in your response. For example, let’s say you’re asked, “How long have you been working on this project?” Don’t say, “Five years.” Instead, say, “We started developing this project five years ago.” Parroting back the subject allows the video editor to delete the reporter’s questions and keep the focus on you, the expert.
  3. Avoid wearing small prints, checks or plaids, which create a moiré effect or rainbow pattern on camera.
  4. Offer to meet in a quiet space, away from the crowd. Not only will the sound quality be improved, but you won’t inadvertently film other people without their permission.

Finally, remember that reporters are working on deadline. If you aren’t available to comment, they will move onto someone who is. The more accessible you are, the more likely you and your organization are to be featured.

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super social

I recently attended a Social Media Breakfast (#SMBMAD) presentation by two members of American Family Insurance’s innovative social media department on the topic of employee advocacy. They were very clear that organic social media reach for companies is dead, and that employees can play a role in counteracting this.

 This post includes both information from that presentation and incorporates supplemental information from additional research.

What is employee social media advocacy?
Employee advocacy, in social media terms, refers to amplifying your organization’s marketing messages by leveraging the social media influence of your employees. This is done by making it easy for your employees to share company messages with their personal social networks.

An on-point employee advocacy program has three key components:
• It delivers relevant messages to your target audience, providing value to them.
• It supports your brand and enhances your culture as an organization.
• It generates share-worthy content, so your employees are inspired to share it with their family and friends.

Why do it?
No one likes to see their social feeds filled with sponsored content, no matter how relevant the algorithm predicts it should be. Let’s face it. Organizations are tolerated on social media just because they help keep networks free for others. As it is, social media channels are making participation more and more difficult for organizations unless they pay to play.

One quote from the American Family’s presentation, attributed to Augie Ray, CX research director at Gartner, was, “Your brand is disappearing from consumers’ news feeds, but friends will always see content from the people they know, care and trust.”

In other words, employees can help provide your branding messages with:

Employees have the potential to greatly expand a brand’s reach on social media. And the math is simple. Consider how many fans your organization’s Facebook page has. Now consider your employees and add together how many friends they each have, individually. I bet the result is quite a bit higher than your brand alone. In the presentation, it was stated the average is 10x higher, and 90% of employees’ social contacts will be new to your brand!

Trustworthiness and authenticity
People are trusted more than companies, and personal accounts are not filtered by social networks the same way that corporate messages increasingly are.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Here’s how to start:

Designate a leader
This person coordinates the different components of the program, provides information and training, clarifies guidelines, answers questions and collects feedback from participants, as well as external data.

Set up a system for measuring results
You can only manage what you measure, so start out by deciding what your reasons are for establishing an advocacy program and set measurable goals. Examples might include organic reach, a shift in target demographics, web traffic or sales.

Establish a social media policy
Be sure everyone understands the guidelines, and that they are reminded of them periodically.

Create a social media warehouse
This should include a wide variety of articles, video clips, infographs, photos and other images for employees to choose from. You don't want everyone sharing the same exact thing at the same time, or your efforts will seem canned and disingenuous.

Consider employees’ social media motivations
Consider that many employees want to find fulfillment in their work and want their contributions to make a difference in the world. Your employees will want to share that which makes them proud. Think sustainable environmental practices at the workplace, volunteering in the community or teams working on the organization’s latest project. Similarly, when an organization’s social content recognizes team members, colleagues will naturally want to share.

Feel free to recycle content
Recycling and repurposing content that’s already been created and even previously used can be really powerful, especially if it was well-received in prior iterations. Plus heck, it’s already available, and what could be easier than that?

Start small
Begin by training (and periodically retraining) a core group of employees who are already socially active and who appreciate and relate to the culture of the organization. And keep participation strictly voluntary.

Create a social work environment
It should not only be OK for employees to share on social media, but it should be encouraged, and even fun, to do so. Consider gamification, creating a leaderboard and mini-competitions. American Family encourages the use of #OneAmFam to help cultivate their engaging social culture.

Comply with full disclosure
Employees should indicate in content they share that they are employees of your organization. This may sound like a surefire way to kill all the fun, but American Family keeps it both transparent and light by using #iWork4AmFam. As a matter of fact, the tool they use to facilitate and automate their advocacy program automatically tacks this on to all employee posts.

Try out tools of the trade
There are a number of online tools that help facilitate the organization, scheduling and posting of content. Some are free or very inexpensive. Some companies, like American Family, use comprehensive customized tools.

Appreciate employee efforts
Show advocates that their participation matters, that what they’re doing is having an impact and is appreciated.

There are additional perks for your organization, too:
Aside from the obvious, increased social media exposure, employee advocacy programs can demonstrate your trust in employees. Advocacy programs improve internal communications between team members and management. Employees can derive deeper meaning and purpose in their work through exposure to great content and actively owning and sharing it. All of this helps employees develop a sense of ownership in the organization

On top of all that, employee advocacy programs can boost the bottom line. According to the National Business Research Institute, a 12% increase in brand advocacy generates a 2x increase in revenue growth. It has also been found that socially engaged companies are 57% more likely to get more sales leads. All this using a tool you already have — Employees!

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The thought of public speaking is enough to make even the most composed and confident among us a little nervous. While public speaking is often ranked among people’s worst fears, it is also an experience that many of us encounter at some point. Over the years I’ve been given a lot of advice on the best ways to approach a public speaking opportunity. These are some of my favorite tips.

Be prepared…but not too prepared. It goes without saying that practicing a speech is beneficial. I’ve known some people who can practice once a few minutes prior to speaking and they’re ready to go, but I need a little more preparation. If possible, I’ll practice in front of a group and ask for feedback. Am I talking too fast or too slow? Am I using awkward hand gestures or not making enough eye contact? Is my speech too long or too short? Also, I like to practice with any technology I’ll be using, like a wireless mic or slides. In the course of practicing a presentation I have found that there can be such a thing as over preparation. There often comes a point where I find myself second guessing my remarks and wanting to make a lot of last minute changes. This is the point when I’ll stop, put the speech away, and focus on something else for a while.

Keep slides simple. My husband does a lot of presentations that involve the use of slides. His advice when it comes to slides is “less is more” and I tend to agree. Text heavy slides or slides with a lot of graphics or animation can distract from what the speaker is saying.

Be comfortable. The colleague who gave me this advice was referring to physical comfort. The day of a presentation is not the day I choose, for example, to wear a new pair of shoes for the first time. I make sure to carefully choose an outfit that fits the event’s dress code (if there is one) and that I’m comfortable in. Clothes can be a great confidence booster but they can also be a huge distraction if I’m onstage tugging at my jacket or thinking about how my shoes are pinching. Being comfortable with the place where I’ll be speaking is also incredibly helpful. If possible, I’ll do a run through on site to get a sense of things like the size of the room and how much space I’ll have to move around.

Finally, I try to remember that I’m the only one in the room who knows what I’m going to say. The audience doesn’t have my speech memorized so if I forget a line or make a small mistake, chances are I’m the only one who will know.
I have found public speaking to be great for building self-esteem and each of my experiences has certainly been a terrific learning opportunity! How do you approach public speaking? Have you received any particularly helpful tips or advice?

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