Posts filed under ‘Optimized News Releases’

Keep Communicating, Even When Times Are Clear As Mud

The news headlines that I receive each morning from Google make the housing market very clear. Look at a recent sample:

  •  Brinkman Sees Signs of U.S. Housing Market Recovery – Washington Post
  • Cold Reality for housing market here – STL Today
  • Economist sees housing market stabilization – Chicago Tribune
  • Spring market declines – WTHI, Terre Haute, Ind.
  • Housing market continues to disappoint – WNYC, New York
  • Demand up for downtown housing – Montgomery, Ala
  • Don’t expect a housing market recovery until 2014 – Forbes

 So, folks, there you have it: the market’s recovering. No, it’s down. Wait, it’s stabilizing. Ulp, it’s declining. Wait, it’s up, at least downtown. OK, it’ll recover…in three years.

This clear analysis and definite trending makes it easy to plan, right?

You’re already dealing with a market that is at least confusing and, according to some, in a double-dip. I can’t tell you what to do about the technical part of your business. But I can tell you that it’s not the time to be quiet.

Just as you’re thinking strategically about buying supplies, what projects you undertake and who you hire, you should be thinking carefully about how you’re communicating with the world.

Here are three things to think about: 

  1. What are you communicating?

Yes, you are communicating. If you’re hunkered down waiting for the good times to return, it sends a message. If you’re out there doing events, seeking out people and advertising in real estate sections, you’re sending quite a different message. You should think about the messages you are sending and the messages you should be sending. Are they the same? Are they proactive, strategic messages or are you just answering questions? Do they send information about who you are and how you want to be understood? 

  1. With whom are you communicating?

Customers, right? But how do you know that? Are you talking with past and present customers as well as potential customers? And what about the other groups on whom your business depends? Are you communicating with your employees and business partners? How about officials who have an impact on your business?  How these groups understand your business can have as big an impact on your business as customers coming through the door. And, by the way, what are your customers, employees, business partners and media people saying about you? 

  1. How are you communicating?

How you communicate sometimes sends a louder message than what you say. Everyone expects you to run pretty ads with your best product on it. But are you being cited as an expert in professional panels and by reporters in traditional and new media? Does your opinion carry weight? Are you using social media to blast out ads or are you actually engaging in conversation? Are you out in the community, participating in events and ready to answer questions or are you hiding in your office? 

 After you’ve thought about all these things, there’s one more question you need to ask yourself: Am I being heard?

 The better people understand you and your organization, the more likely they are to do business with you and to give you a little latitude as you work through the realities of getting the job done. How you communicate, what messages you send and how you send them create your reputation and people’s perception of your business. It’s not the kind of thing you want to leave to chance. You can’t handle the communications aspect of your business on the run.

 Running a business means being an expert in a lot of things, including knowing when to ask for help. Many organizations find it helpful to work with a communications professional, much like they have an attorney look at legal documents and an accountant look at the books. If you’re more comfortable negotiating a deal than writing and optimizing a news release, a firm like In-House Public Relations can help you.

 The economy and the housing business probably won’t become clear for a while. In addition to everything else you’re doing to protect your business, managing its reputation and making sure people know what sets you apart from others will establish and maintain your leadership.  Maybe they won’t call you tomorrow. But when they’re ready to call, you’ll be at the top of their list.

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June 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

Joining the unemployed creates an opportunity!

The In-House PR guy homeless.

Just before Thanksgiving, I joined the 9.3 percent of the workforce that isn’t working. My employer for the past 10 years, K. Hovnanian Homes, laid off another group of employees and I joined a long list of top-notch people shed by the company as it deals with a poor housing market and other issues.

I’m not angry or bitter. Anyone in the housing industry who thought their job was secure either owned the company or wasn’t paying attention. But I am frustrated for two reasons.

First, I was working on some projects that I found exciting. One was continuing to work with paleontologists and geologists to balance the need for new homes with the need to preserve geologic history, including dinosaur tracks and some geologic formations found in very few other places around the world. I had already arranged an agreement between K. Hovnanian and the New Jersey State Museum and held a press conference to announce that agreement. But there was more work to be done.

The second reason is that I was pursuing some exciting communications strategies using social and traditional media. I was also trying to increase the use of Twitter to converse with homebuyers and reporters. And I was building on my experience with optimized releases by developing a plan that would allow us to create an on-line newsroom and create our own online, optimized real estate page. I thought we could complete the circle by using QRs on our print ads, but advertising was handled by another department, and we never got past some casual discussions.

Now I’ll have to look elsewhere to demonstrate the power of integrating traditional and social media in public relations strategies and tactics, something that has had growing appeal to me.

A lot of organizations hire social media managers and many agencies bill themselves as social media agencies. Social media, however, is not a strategic approach to communicating with today’s publics. A social media agency is like hiring a magazine agency or TV manager. One medium does not a strategy make.

Public relations is still about reputation, identifying the different groups that impact an organization’s success and staying engaged with those groups (read two-way communications). It’s about influencing opinion and behavior. Social media is a powerful tool to accomplish that. It’s very exciting to be able to bypass the news media and talk directly with customers or other stakeholders. Too many organizations, however, use social media as a broadcast tool, not listening for a response. Or they use only social media, missing other opportunities to tell their story.

Maybe it’s the “old guy” in me, but I still believe there’s also an important place for traditional tactics such as news releases (provided, of course, they’re well written and talk about something newsworthy) and face-to-face conversation. Those tactics still have an important place in most public relations strategies.

So, rather than a setback, I figure I have an opportunity: I have a chance to find a place that’s concerned about its reputation and wants to maintain that reputation and accomplish its goals by using an intelligent mix of social and traditional media.

 My search is on and I’m excited! Your thoughts?

December 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm 9 comments

The SEO Magic Act

Many magic tricks work because of misdirection, a technique of distracting an audience. Does search-engine optimization doesn’t have a little of that kind of magic in it?

I’m not taking anything away from search-engine optimization or search-engine marketing. Obviously, SEO is a valuable tool in today’s search-engine-driven world. It’s wonderful to deliver our message directly to constituents, whether it’s a sales message or an opinion on an issue. And my internal clients, including my bosses, are very impressed when I can tell them that a release we put out drove X-number of people to our Web site and, depending on what service we use to distribute the Web site, that even more people saw the release on the Web, even if they didn’t click through.

Nice numbers, but what are we teaching our clients? Is this little magic trick I work regularly these days misdirecting my clients from what PR is really supposed to be about?

The problem comes for practitioners whose clients have a hard time grasping that public relations needs to be part of a proactive strategy to be effective. Even if they do sort of “get it,” 300 visitors to the Web site is something they really “get” – and like. After all, isn’t that what they’re demanding of their marketing and advertising folks?

There’s a danger here that the singular tactic with very visible result could become more important to clients, especially those short on funds, than a larger strategy about reputation, even if that plan secures our place in the market and helps with sales or meets other business goals. These days, when I say to my internal clients “community meeting,” “community relations event,” “interview with a non-too-friendly reporter” or other just talk about reputational issues, my clients tell me they’d rather see another optimized release and numbers to the Web site.

So why, you may ask, can’t you do all of these things? They should be tactics in a full campaign. You are right, of course. But for practitioners in my boat — a department of me, myself and I with no agency – we just can’t do it all at the same time. It’s complicates the constant education we have to do to explain what public relations brings to the table beyond eyeballs on the Web site.

So SEO can certainly help us work magic. But that magic itself can make it more difficult to explain the real goal of PR: Assuring that our company is one others want to do business with.

I’d love to know how other small agencies and departments are handling this challenge.  I’m in the process of writing a new communications plan to put a strategic rudder back in the water. I plan to emphasize that search engine optimization is just one rabbit in my hat of tricks to maintain my company’s good reputation. And I plan to be ready when I’m asked why all that’s necessary when I could spend my time writing more optimized articles.

I don’t want my magic act to turn into black magic and fail to contribute to my company’s business goals.

March 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

AntiSocial Media

Interesting conversation with my bosses today. They are perplexed because competitors are coming  up higher in organic search engine results than we are. And I’m supposed to be able to magically fix that.

We talked about optimization, the number of items we’re putting on the Web and other factors.  I, for one, am still trying to figure out the best way to get my news releases and other items to the best writers, be they reporters, bloggers or whatever, as well as picked up by search engines. It’s so frustrating.

I’m trying PitchEngine. Check this out: http://pitch.pe/40400  Let me know what you think. And, no, they didn’t pay me to say this. They didn’t even return my phone calls and there’s very little in the way of help on the site, although it’s pretty straightforward. So, we’ll see about this… Not an answer, but maybe a stepping stone.

Without violating state secrets, how are you dealing with the realities of SEO releases?

The biggest problem, of course, is budgets and resources. I have no agency working for me and can’t afford to keep using wire services to distribute. I’ve read lots of articles and attended lots of seminars, but this is reality. Anybody have any ideas? Let’s share them!

January 7, 2010 at 6:42 pm 3 comments


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