Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We're moving!

Skogrand PR Solutions recently launched a new website at, and future blog posts will be located on that site at

You'll still be able to read past blog posts on this site.

Thanks for reading!

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Minnesota PRSA's fortuitous sports public relations event


minnesota timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx VP of Communications Brad Ruiter addresses PR professionals.
In a week when NFL players' alleged misdeeds dominated the headlines, the breakfast event hosted by the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America on sports public relations and communications was fortuitous indeed.

The event, held at Target Center (home of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx), featured members of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx communications team. Brian Kimmes, facilities project manager, kicked things off with an overview of the transformation of a nearby building from Block E to Mayo Clinic Square. The building will be unique in that it will have a sports medicine center in the same building as the team's practice area, something that no other NBA team can claim.

Next up was Brad Ruiter, vice president of communications for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx. After a brief overview of his background and current position, a lively question-and-answer session ensued.

The first topic? This year's trade of all-star player Kevin Love. "We got extremely lucky that LeBron James wanted to go back to Cleveland," said Ruiter. "The dominoes started to fall into place."

It didn't take long for the indictment of Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson to come up.

"Don't blame the Minnesota Vikings PR team for what is happening with the Adrian Peterson situation. In professional sports, the buck stops with the owner," said Ruiter, referring to the team's loss of sponsors and a press conference in which Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman looked extremely uncomfortable. "The Minnesota Vikings have gotten themselves into a hole and need to get themselves out day by day."

Ruiter knows the public relations personnel at the Vikings and the other Minnesota professional sports teams. In fact, the Timberwolves collaborated with the Vikings to get the recent stadium bonding bill passed. The Vikings approached the state legislature while the Timberwolves handled the Minneapolis city government lobbying efforts.

Ruiter compared and contrasted Timberwolves and Lynx fans, saying that Timberwolves fans are very cautious about the team and are taking a "wait-and-see approach." On the other hand, Lynx fans are a small yet very passionate group. "Lynx fans would run through a wall for the team," said Ruiter.

While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been pummeled in the media for his handling of off-the-field drama, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been praised for the way he handled this summer's Donald Sterling/Los Angeles Clippers situation. The difference, according to Ruiter, is that Silver stepped in right away. 

In addition to getting an inside look at the public relations operations of an NBA team, attendees also learned something important about sports public relations -- a lot of it involves reactionary situations.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Understanding the basics of search engine optimization


Last week I was a guest on the Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat with Melinda Emerson, the "SmallBizLady." I answered questions about the basics of search engine optimization.

Here's the transcript.

SmallBizLady: Many people have heard of search engine optimization (SEO). How would you define SEO?

Brant Skogrand: According to Search Engine College, where I became a Certified Search Engine Marketer, SEO is “the use of search engines to draw traffic to a website. It’s the technique of attaining a higher ranking in search engines and directories via alteration of website code and copy to make it more search engine compatible.”

SEO is divided into two categories: organic and paid. The Search Engine College definition mainly refers to organic SEO.

Paid (or pay-per-click) SEO also is important, because it can provide instantaneous visibility and be very useful for online marketing campaigns of a specific timeframe. Examples of pay-per-click SEO programs include Google AdWords and Bing Ads.

SmallBizLady: Why is SEO important?

Brant Skogrand:  Think about your own web search habits. I know that even if I’m really searching for something, I don’t usually go past the fourth page of Google. I’m the exception, however. According to HubSpot, 75 percent of users never scroll past the first page of search results.

Getting onto the first or second page of search results for keywords that are relevant to your organization can make a big difference in visits to your website – and very likely in your business results.

There are approximately 200 ranking factors that go into Google’s algorithm, ranging from keywords to social signals to tags and beyond. Having an understanding of those ranking factors can help your website rise in the search results. It does take time as well as a fine balance between optimizing your website and over-optimizing your website, which the search engines frown upon.

SmallBizLady: Why are keywords important to SEO?
seo consulting
“Key With Keywords Text” courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Brant Skogrand:  Keyword research is probably the most crucial element to SEO. The search engines are looking to connect users with the most relevant sites. Keywords are more than just single words; they are the terms that potential site visitors would use in search engines to find your product or service.

Hopefully you already know who your target customer is. If not, start thinking about your target customer to move forward with your keyword research. Where do they live? What is their age range? What is your target customer’s gender?

Start writing down a “seed list” of keywords to choose from. For instance, a Minneapolis-based florist might start out with phrases that include the words “flowers,” “florists,” or “gifts.”

Those are pretty general terms though. Continuing on with the example of the Minneapolis-based florist, qualifying the terms will help you get closer to the phrases that visitors might actually use, such as “send flowers Minneapolis,” “florists Minneapolis,” “wedding bouquets Minneapolis,” “Valentine’s Day gifts Minneapolis,” etc.

This final list of keywords is important, because you will want to use them throughout your website: in the text, in headers, in the title of your website, and more. Most webpages can only be optimized for a maximum of two to three keywords or phrases. So, if you have a 10-page website to optimize, you’ll need approximately 30 keywords of phrases to target. You probably would want to come up with more words than that, though. It’s always good to have more keywords to choose from.

Some of the best resources that I have found to determine the actual traffic for various keywords include the Keyword Planner tool on the Google AdWords website, SEMrush and Raven Tools.

SmallBizLady: What role do tags have in SEO?

Brant Skogrand:  The title tag in particular is very important. Search Engine College defines the title tag as “a descriptive name of a page that is shown by browsers as the page name in the browser window.”

After the overall content of a webpage, the title tag is considered the single most important on-page SEO element.

Search engines prefer when your website has a unique title for each page, and may even ignore pages that have the same titles.

Search results limit the number of characters that they show for page titles. The best practice is to keep page titles to a length between 10 and 70 characters.

Use your keywords in your title tag. Put the most important keywords first, as search engines read from left to right.

The meta description tag also is important, as search engines often display this short, helpful summary of your page’s content. Searchers also use the meta description tag to decide which result to click on. A general best practice is to keep the meta description tag to a minimum of 50 characters and a maximum of 156 characters.

SmallBizLady: How can photos be optimized for SEO?

Brant Skogrand:  Since search engines are visually impaired, flashy webpages aren’t as useful as ones that have an appropriate level of text to help the search engines with appropriate context to understand the content and its quality.

Best practices recommend at least 250 words of text on each webpage.

I like to take advantage of any optimization possibility, however, and each photo has the opportunity for associated text. Both ALT text and title text for a photo provide search engines with useful information about the subject matter of an image. The search engines in turn use this information to determine the best image to return for a searcher’s query.

SmallBizLady: SEO is constantly changing. How can people keep up?

Brant Skogrand:  Several websites are very useful that track search engine updates, including: Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch, Moz and Search Engine Land.

Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, also has a blog with very useful information.

Many search engine updates, such as Google’s recent announcement that websites that automatically encrypt their services will be boosted in Google’s ranking formula, are covered in the mainstream media.

SmallBizLady: What were the effects of the most recent Google updates?

Brant Skogrand:  Google changes its search algorithm around 500 to 600 times each year. Most of the changes are minor, but sometimes there’s a major algorithmic update – such as Google Panda or Google Penguin.

Recent updates include Pigeon (updates to local search algorithms), Panda 4.0 (part of an update to prevent sites with poor quality content to get into the top search results), changes to Google Authorship, and Payday Loan (an anti-spam update).

SmallBizLady: How can SEO be measured?

Brant Skogrand:  Hopefully it ties to business results.

While you can look at where your website ranks in the search results, there are more measures to look at by having Google Analytics installed on your website, which can track site usage and visitor behavior.

With Google Analytics, you can set a goal conversion – meaning that if people visit a certain page, request an appointment, buy an item, etc., you are meeting specific goals for your website.

Other measurements in Google Analytics range from bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who enter the site and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site) to the geographic location of site visitors to the most popular content and more.

SmallBizLady: What role does social media and public relations have in relation to SEO?

Brant Skogrand:  Earlier this year, Google’s Matt Cutts said, “But as far as doing special specific work to sort of say ‘you have this many followers on Twitter or this many likes on Facebook,’ to the best of my knowledge we don’t currently have any signals like that in our web search ranking algorithms.”

There’s value in having an active presence on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks (like Google+), however, because it can be a way to drive traffic and visitors to your website.

Having a blog on your website also can be valuable as a way to demonstrate thought leadership.

Search engines also reward sites that frequently refresh content, which generally can be accomplished by having a blog.

There’s also value in obtaining media coverage through public relations outreach. The resulting articles could drive traffic to your website and increase the popularity of your organization. In addition, media websites often link to the websites of companies that they cover, which can be a boost to your organization’s SEO efforts.

SmallBizLady: How can entrepreneurs learn more about SEO?

Brant Skogrand:  I found the Search Engine College program very helpful. Their curriculum covers topics ranging from organic SEO to pay-per-click to copywriting and beyond. It’s on online program, and tutors grade your assignments.

Google also offers free online courses through Google Analytics Academy to help people improve their Analytics skills. There also are Google Partners certifications, including the AdWords certification, to demonstrate proficiency.

SmallBizLady: Why did you decide to write the 19 Tips for Successful Public Relations book?

Brant Skogrand:  Many organizations struggle with how to successfully integrate public relations into their marketing mix.

Because of the numerous demands on entrepreneurs’ time and money, many small business owners neither are able to learn public relations on their own nor hire an outside public relations firm.

My goal with the book is to help entrepreneurs learn small business public relations through straightforward tips and by analysis of real-life examples – and then be able to apply public relations strategies and tactics to help achieve their business goals.

SmallBizLady: Are there any other tips for SEO that you can give to startups and developing businesses?

Brant Skogrand:  As you probably have noticed, there are a lot of factors that go into SEO and it can be tough to keep up with the changes.

Even though you can do it on your own, the results generally are better when you hire an outside professional.

Be wary of people who guarantee results. Since we don’t run Google or Bing, we can’t guarantee that your website will rank at the top of the search results for specific terms. By using our knowledge and experience, however, your site should see optimization improvements.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What makes a video go viral


clouds the song
Screen grab from YouTube
While there doesn't seem to be a formula to guarantee that a video will go viral, researchers have found some commonalities among hits across the Internet.

In a recent article by Natalie Kitroeff of the New York Times, she highlighted the following findings from researchers:
  • Emotion is key. The video can cause either a happy or sad response, but is more likely to be passed along the more intense the emotion it causes.
  • Uplifting content is shared more frequently. On the list of stories that are e-mailed most among New York Times readers, depressing content is not shared as often.
  • Ego comes into play. Just like a library with unread books just to look well-read, many people share links and videos just to get more likes, clicks or to evoke laughter or other reactions.
 It takes more than cats and cute babies to become a viral sensation online.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hello, Springfield!


Approximately 200 public relations practitioners recently converged in Springfield, Mo., for this year’s PRSA Midwest District Conference.

While storms in the Chicago area delayed those flying through O’Hare Airport, travelers persisted and were rewarded with excellent learning and networking opportunities.
The conference, with a tagline of “Firm Foundations/New Horizons,” featured three keynotes:
  •       Minnesota’s James Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, spoke on “Gaining Influence: How to Have a More Important, Powerful, Influential and Fulfilling Career.”
  •       Joe Cohen, APR, the national chair of PRSA, discussed PRSA’s strategic plan, the evolving
    PRSA Leadership
    PRSA National Chair Joe Cohen, APR, addresses QuickStart attendees.
    role of public relations professionals, and the “seven deadly sins of PR.”
  •       Missy Maher of Edelman shared her insights on marketing to the modern family.
More than 25 breakout sessions provided plenty of choices for attendees. Topics ranged from content marketing to social media measurement to chocolate addiction and beyond.

Approximately 20 PRSA members either already involved or interested in PRSA leadership participated in the conference’s QuickStart session. They learned how to focus their leadership qualities for chapter success from Regina Waters, Ph.D., of Drury University, discussed best practices from around the Midwest District, and heard from Cohen on the role of PRSA National.

While a printed program provided an overview of the conference, attendees also were able to download the Guidebook app to create a personalized schedule and be updated about schedule changes on the fly.

The app proved its use when two sessions were scratched due to the cancellation of the speaker’s flight from Chicago.

In addition to networking opportunities throughout the day, attendees hit downtown Springfield for dinner at a restaurant of their choice and ended the evening with a gathering at Springfield Brewing Company.

The annual Midwest District Platinum Award, the district’s highest individual honor, was given to Debbie Harvey, APR. She was president of the Chicago chapter in 2012 and championed and led development of the 2012 Midwest District Conference in Chicago. Harvey works for the American Medical Association as the vice president of change strategies.

Thanks to the Southwest Missouri PRSA chapter for providing an excellent professional development opportunity!

To see tweets from the conference, search Twitter using the hashtag #prsamdc.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The art of the apology


Authentically saying "I'm sorry" can be a very challenging action to take.

Last week, however, Jonah Hill delivered an excellent apology on "The Tonight Show." While Hill was on the show to plug his new "22 Jump Street" movie, he insisted on clearing the air first regarding the circumstances in which he was caught on video using a gay slur directed at a paparazzo.

Hugh Grant also delivered a skillful apology on "The Tonight Show" in 1995 for his dalliance with a prostitute. Grant effectively summed it up by saying, "I did a bad thing, and there you have it."

Finally, David Letterman was deft in his apologies related to having sexual liaisons with female staff members.

How come these three apologies worked? They were sincere. They were timely. Above all, they essentially said, "I screwed up and I'm sorry."

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Removing links from Google


removing links from google
What goes on the Internet stays on the Internet, right? Yes -- except for in the European Union now.* Thanks to a recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, Google and other search engines now also are in the business of being caretakers of people's reputations.

Here's how it works with Google:
  • Europeans can visit this page to complete a form requesting that search results be de-indexed from Google's listings.
  • The results must be “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.
  • Google will "assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information. When evaluating the request, Google will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information—for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials."
  • A copy of a valid form of photo identification is needed to complete the form, in order to "prevent fraudulent removal requests from people impersonating others, trying to harm competitors, or improperly seeking to suppress legal information."
  • Lawyers or other authorized agents may submit a request for someone they represent.
Google processes an estimate 90 percent of the searches in the European Union, a 28-nation bloc of more than 500 million people.

*In a USA Today article, Eric Schiffer of Reputation Management Consultants in Irvine, Calif., said, "There's nothing that you do on the Internet that can truly be erased. Even this Google ruling—it's the equivalent of destroying a library index card, but the book still exists."

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to write a tip sheet

Guest post by Sandra Beckwith

A tip sheet is a news release that offers advice or tips in a bulleted or numbered format. It’s one of the hardest working and most useful tactics available for generating publicity. Use a tip sheet to generate short column notes in a newspaper or magazine or to interest a reporter, editor or producer in a feature article or talk show interview on the tip sheet topic.

Here’s how to create an effective tip sheet:
  1. Use a press release format. The biggest difference between a tip sheet and a traditional press release is that the body of the tip sheet will include your tips or advice in a numbered or bulleted format.
  2. Start with a headline that mimics those on magazine covers – “5 ways to lose weight before June” or “Top 7 mistakes shoppers make.” Here’s an example from a tip sheet promoting a women’s health and nutrition book to newspaper living sections:
    Expert offers 10 nutrition tips for New Year’s resolutions
  3. Write your first paragraph so it explains why the tips are necessary. The first paragraph and introductory text for the nutrition tip sheet was:

    As any health club owner knows, “taking better care of myself” tops New Year’s resolution lists each year. Yet, many people – particularly women – don’t know exactly what it means to take better care of themselves.
  4. Present a quotation in the second paragraph. This should provide more detail about why the tip sheet is necessary and establish the subject’s credentials. Here’s the second paragraph in the New Year’s resolution tip sheet:

    “Traditionally, women have been caretakers of others in their lives – friends, family, neighbors, coworkers,” explains Susan Calvert Finn, PhD, RD, FADA, the architect of the American Dietetic Association’s Nutrition & Healthy Campaign for Women. “More and more busy women are realizing, however, that before they can adequately care for others, they must first care for themselves. It is clear that they must take charge of their own health. Nobody is going to do it for them.”
  5. Set up your tips with a sentence – “Here are Smith’s tips for saving money at the supermarket” – or a short paragraph, as we have here:

    Dr. Finn’s new book, The American Dietetic Association Guide to Women’s Nutrition for Healthy Living, provides women of all ages with nutrition information they can use immediately to eat right, maintain their health and prevent disease. Here are her top 10 suggestions from the book for women who need a healthier lifestyle this year:
  6. Then list your tips with bullets or numbers. When tips are listed this way, rather than in traditional paragraphs, editors can quickly scan them to see if they would be useful to readers – or not. Make sure you write your tips in an active voice with strong verbs. And make sure they provide advice, not reasons to do something or product features. Here are a few of the tips in Finn’s release so you can get a sense of how this works:

    Make an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD) for a nutritional checkup. Call the American Dietetic Association at 800-366-1655 to locate an RD near you.

    Switch your thinking from “ideal” weight to “healthy” weight. Remember, you are unique. Your healthy weight may differ from your neighbor’s – even if she is your height and age – because of other variables such as genetics, fitness level and overall health.

    Look for “aerobic opportunities” every day. Park farther out in the lot at the mall. Take a brief walk at lunch or dinner. Think of the stairs as your friend.
  7. Finally, add the concluding boilerplate paragraph that you put on most press releases. Here’s the paragraph for the nutrition book:

    The American Dietetic Association Guide to Women’s Nutrition for Healthy Living, published by Perigee Books, is available in bookstores nationwide for $14. Book proceeds benefit nutrition research by the ADA, a national organization of 70,000 nutrition professionals, 98 percent of whom are women.

    Look for ways to include tip sheets in your publicity plan; you’ll soon see how easily they generate results.

Sandra Beckwith, the author of Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement, teaches the online “Book Buzz” class for Freelance Success. Learn more at

Monday, May 5, 2014

Public relations case study: Nestle infant formula


Infant formula is one of the products that helped create food conglomerate Nestlé when, in 1867, Swiss pharmacist Henri Nestlé mixed together a liquid food from cow's milk, wheat flour, and sugar for a neighbor's baby who wouldn't nurse.

nestle baby formula controversy
Infant formula also is the reason for a boycott against the company, launched in Minneapolis in 1977.

The roots of the boycott started in 1974, when the British organization War on Want published a booklet called "The Baby Killer." The booklet was widely distributed and translated into several languages. As a result, many church-related groups joined against Nestlé.

Nestlé responded by suing the publisher of the German-language translation, Third World Action Group, for libel. While Nestlé won the two-year trial, the defendants were fined only $400 and the judge told Nestlé that it "must modify its publicity methods fundamentally."

The topic of analyzing the marketing of breast milk substitutes in developing countries continued to gain traction with a U.S. Senate public hearing as well as WHO and UNICEF hosting an international meeting.

In 1981, The New York Times published a lengthy article on infant formula use in developing countries.

Problems when mothers of infants in developing countries switch to formula include: disease because of contaminated water; lack of means to sterilize water; and diluting formula to make it last longer.

Around the same time as the 1981 article, research demonstrated that breastfeeding is healthier for babies.

Nestlé met with boycott coordinators in 1984, and the boycott was suspended when the company agreed to adhere to the World Health Assembly's International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. However, the boycott resumed in 1989 when the International Baby Food Action Network alleged that formula companies were providing free and low-cost supplies to hospitals in developing countries.

Even though Nestlé issued guidelines for mothers on how and when to give babies formula as well as revamping its marketing materials, the boycott still exists today and even has expanded. 

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Monday, April 28, 2014

How to do keyword research


keyword research
Keyword research is considered the most crucial element to search engine marketing.
Utilizing the appropriate keywords and phrases to connect with your target audience can greatly impact your search engine rankings.

According to Search Engine College, "Keyword research is simply the process you use to come up with appropriate keywords and phrases that you wish to target in search engines. In other words, the keywords or phrases that you believe your potential site visitors would type in to search engines to find products and services similar to yours."

Here are the steps for keyword research as recommended by Search Engine College.

Before You Start

Think about your search engine campaign requirements. Are you looking to connect with a certain demographic market? If so, where do they live? Are you trying to reach men or women? How old are the people in your target market?

As an example, Search Engine College uses a fictional florist located in Miami, Florida. Possible target markets include:
  • women in their early to late 20s
  • people living in Miami and surrounding suburbs
  • brides-to-be living in Miami and surrounding suburbs
  • dating males
  • couples (especially around Valentine's Day)
The next step is to create a "seed list" of keywords. As you yourself probably use a search engine every day, put yourself in your target audience's shoes and think about what you would type into a search engine to find the relevant goods and services.

Gather Your Seed List

As you think of appropriate search terms, write them down. Search Engine College suggests the following search terms for the florist example:
  • flowers
  • roses
  • bouquets
  • Valentine's Day
  • wedding flowers
  • florists
  • gifts
Since those seed terms are very generic, they need to be qualified.

Qualify Your Terms

Refining the search terms can help you connect better with your target market. For instance, the Miami florist probably wouldn't want to connect with people interested in growing roses or with people who live in a different state.

So, Search Engine College recommends adding the following terms to the original list:
  • [send] flowers [Florida]
  • [send] roses [Miami]
  • [wedding] bouquets [Miami]
  • Valentine's Day [gifts Florida]
  • [Florida] wedding flowers
  • florists [Miami]
  • [send] gifts [Miami]
That really narrows down the searches. After all, the goal is to connect with your target audience. You have something to offer them. By connecting with the target audience, hopefully they won't click away from your website.

One thing to note -- it's important to make reference to your target search terms in your website's body copy as well.

To expand upon your keyword list, ask people that you know what terms they would use to find your website. Visit your competitors' websites too -- you'll get some additional ideas there.

Keyword Research Tools

Each web page can be optimized for two to three keywords at the most. For a 10-page website, you would need approximately 30 target keywords. For good measure, your keyword seed list (in this instance) should have at least 60 phrases to choose from.

I like to use Raven Tools when conducting keyword research, as it provides a collection of tools. Google AdWords also offers its Keyword Planner tool.

These tools can provide you with information on how much competition there is for the keywords. You want to choose keywords that have enough traffic, but also aren't too competitive so your site has a fighting chance.


Remember your target audience for your website. It's no use to target very generic keywords. By targeting the keywords that tie most closely to your website, visitors will be pleased with what they find -- and hopefully convert to paying customers.

Allocate Your Keywords

The final step is to take your final list of words and decide which pages on your website they should be assigned to. By looking at the body text, hopefully this should be straightforward.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Importance of content marketing


"Content marketing is to 2014 what social media marketing was to 2007." As the opening sentence in Cision's eBook, "Power Your Story: Content Marketing Essentials for PR," it provides insight into how integral content marketing is becoming in communications.

importance of content marketing
So what is content marketing, anyway? According to Cision, content marketing is "the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable and engaging content to a target audience with the goal of acquiring new customers or increasing business from existing customers."

While marketing professionals have essentially done content marketing for decades, it has changed with the advent of social media and other online tools.

Here's a summary of the highlights from the Cision eBook (which I would recommend downloading, by the way).

Having a plan with measurable goals is the core of the Cision eBook as well as the best way to start. According to Cision, the five essential elements to a content marketing plan are: creation, curation, optimization, amplification and analysis.
  1. Creation -- It's not easy to create compelling content on a regular basis. Having a strategy is crucial, and knowing your audience is key to a successful strategy. Examples of tools to get to know your audience can range from Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to forms that customers and prospects are required to complete when accessing information such as white papers. Content creation goes beyond the press release; it includes much more, such as email newsletters, videos, social media posts, etc.
  2. Curation -- Content marketing is more than creation. Curating content also can provide value, because you are saving people time by sharing quality content. Think about the blogs that you read and the people whom you follow on social media. Share their thought leadership with your audience.
  3. Optimization -- Even if you have created outstanding content, it can only be effective when it's read by your target audience. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. The Cision eBook provides a brief overview of the factors that impact SEO. You can also read my SEO-related posts on this blog.
  4. Amplification -- In addition to sharing useful content, social media provides the opportunity for two-way conversation. Be open to others' points of view. Engage with your audience by responding to their comments or having online chats. Be helpful. Identifying and engaging online influencers also can amplify your content. The Cision eBook provides some excellent examples of how to do paid amplification as well as its benefits and examples.
  5. Analysis -- Cision recommends using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals to measure your content marketing success. Look at some of the objectives of your content marketing, e.g., gaining new members, driving profitable business actions, etc., to determine appropriate goals.
Content marketing is more than just a buzzword; it's an integral part of connecting with target audiences.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Webinars for IT buyers

Tech Content Marketing Infographic Series: Webinars
Explore more visuals like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Effective crisis communication


A crisis, or a "people-stopping, showstopping event that creates victims" according to crisis communications expert Jim Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, can create major havoc for an organization. One aspect particularly known to cause hand-wringing for CEOs is the negative media coverage that usually accompanies a crisis.
effective crisis communication

Lukaszewski, however, never worries about the media in a crisis; he instead focuses on the organization's behavior as the perpetrator.

At a recent session that I attended led by Lukaszewski, he outlined his five-step process for effective crisis communication.
  1. Stop the production of victims. Deal with the underlying problem first and address key issues.
  2. Manage the victim dimension. Victims can be people, animals or living systems. Anticipate the dynamics of the victims of the crisis.
  3. Communicate with those people who need to know now. As everyone affected becomes a communicator, it's important to inform and educate them -- particularly employees.
  4. Inform the indirectly affected. This includes people who now have a problem because the organization has a problem, such as interest groups or allies.
  5. Deal with the self-anointed and self-appointed. In today's media environment, everyone can be a reporter -- from a blogger to a journalist to someone with a Facebook account.
Lukaszewski added two core crisis communications best practices that all of us learned in kindergarten -- tell the truth and apologize.

"If you take the path of truth, you get to sleep at night," said Lukaszewski. He also said that numerous times he has noticed that the negative aspects of a crisis often stop happening when the organization authentically apologizes.

Above all, remember what matters in a crisis -- the victims.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mastering tech content marketing

Mastering Tech Content Marketing
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What makes something newsworthy


In my work with clients, I always try to find the newsworthy aspects of the information that they want to announce.

what makes a story newsworthy
To assist them in understanding what makes something newsworthy, it helps to take the viewpoint of a news reporter or editor.

I found the following news values list from the University of Utah very useful:
  1. Impact: The significance, importance, or consequence of an event or trend; the greater the consequence, and the larger the number of people for whom an event is important the greater the newsworthiness.
  2. Timeliness: The more recent, the more newsworthy. In some cases, timeliness is relative. An event may have occurred in the past but only have been learned about recently.
  3. Prominence: Occurrences featuring well-known individuals or institutions are newsworthy. Well-knownness may spring either from the power the person or institution possesses – the president, the speaker of the House of Representatives – or from celebrity – the late Princess Diana or fashion designer Gianni Versace.
  4. Proximity: Closeness of the occurrence to the audience may be gauged either geographically – close by events, all other things being equal, are more important than distant ones – or in terms of the assumed values, interest and expectations of the news audience.
  5. The Bizarre: The unusual, unorthodox, or unexpected attracts attention. Boxer Mike Tyson’s disqualification for biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear moves the story from the sports pages and the end of a newscast to the front pages and the top of the newscast.
  6. Conflict: Controversy and open clashes are newsworthy, inviting attention on their own, almost regardless of what the conflict is over. Conflict reveals underlying causes of disagreement between individuals and institutions in a society.
  7. Currency: Occasionally something becomes an idea whose time has come. The matter assumes a life of its own, and for a time assumes momentum in news reportage.
  8. Human Interest: Those stories that have more of an entertainment factor versus any of the above -- not that some of the other news values cannot have an entertainment value.
Consider these news values the next time you're trying to determine the appropriate pitch to a reporter. 

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Business Wire releases 'A Guide to Press Release Optimization'


Major changes in search algorithms in the past couple of years have kept search engine optimizers and public relations professionals on their toes.

press release distribution
Press releases, a key tactic in a public relations professional's toolkit, can have an impact on SEO if done correctly. To advise the public relations, investor relations and communications industries, Business Wire recently issued a guidance report titled "A Guide for Press Release Optimization."

“In recent years we have seen many press releases more focused on SEO keywords and strategically placed links — at the expense of quality content. Our new research report provides a welcome path for PR practitioners to return their focus on quality writing. Well-written press releases with engaging multimedia content continue to be among the most powerful and cost-effective communications tools available. We are thrilled to see that quality writing and quality content are at the top of PR best practices for SEO in 2014,” said Tom Becktold, senior vice president of marketing for Business Wire. 

The report offers the following 10 tips:
  1. Research and learn "real time" user behavior
  2. Make friends with the algorithms
  3. Make format improvements
  4. Use natural links
  5. Press release keywords
  6. Focus on quality content
  7. Always include multimedia
  8. Use social media strategically
  9. Use responsive design for mobile
  10. Choose the proper distribution method
I highly recommend downloading the free guide. Visit visit today.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Event planning insights from Minnesota community festivals


event planningWith a vibrant community festival scene including the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, the Basilica Block Party and more, Minnesotans love to get together.

Attendees at a recent Minnesota PRSA panel had the opportunity to hear from some local event planning organizers, including:
  • Roseanne Bump, executive director of the St. Paul Winter Carnival and Cinco de Mayo;
  • Sue Evens, executive director of the Grand Avenue Business Association and Grand Old Day;
  • Meghan Gustafson of the Basilica Block Party; and
  • Deb Schaber of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.
While each event draws slightly different audiences, the organizers commented on topics that they do share in common: promotion, social media and sponsorships.

To get the word out about events that draw tens of thousands of people, promotion is key. Public relations is a vital component, but so is advertising and media sponsorships. For the St. Paul Winter Carnival, the St. Paul Pioneer Press is a very important partner due to its ongoing coverage and sponsorship of the St. Paul Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt.

In terms of social media, each event organizer has the approach of going relatively "dark" in the off season. The exception is the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, whose loyal fans are eager to engage in social media all year long. Panelists shared that, while Facebook is their favorite platform, Twitter often has high engagement during the events themselves.

When asked by moderator Beth Pinkney of the 2015 Senior Games about how to handle issues that arise in social media, Sue Evens of Grand Old Day offered her take. "If I hear from more than one person that something is an issue, then it's important and I address it," Evens said.

Schaber said that sponsorships have declined in the eight years that she has worked at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Panelists noted that sponsors look for evidence of sales in considering whether to renew sponsorships or not. Perhaps they would want to look at the impressions they get from being in front of tens of thousands of Minnesotans having a good time together as well.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why attend the PRSA Midwest District Conference


Given that the polar vortex has made this winter one for the record books, it comes as no surprise that Midwesterners already are booking their summers with fun vacations.

things to do in springfield mo
Springfield, Mo.
Before the summer schedule fills up, I would encourage public relations professionals to register for the PRSA Midwest District Conference.

There are several reasons to attend the conference, which takes place June 18-20 in Springfield, Mo.
  1. You'll get to hear excellent programming sessions. Jim Lukaszewski, APR, Fellow PRSA, also known as "America's Crisis Guru," will deliver the conference keynote. Joseph E. Cohen, APR, this year's PRSA National chair, will be speaking as well. In addition, there are tons of breakout sessions covering various topics.
  2. Connect with other public relations professionals. The PRSA Midwest District covers chapters from eight states, so you're bound to meet someone new. In addition, I connected with other public relations professionals from my home chapter when I attended the last two PRSA Midwest District Conferences.
  3. Develop your PRSA leadership skills. On June 18, the conference starts with a QuickStart program, which is an educational and motivational networking event designed to help attendees learn what it takes to succeed as a PRSA leader.
  4. See a new city. I'm looking forward to visiting Springfield for the first time. For those interested in touring Branson, it's less than an hour's drive away.
By the time you're in Springfield this summer, the polar vortex will be a distant memory.

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meet the media: Christian Toto of Big Hollywood and Daddylibrium


Christian Toto is the assistant editor at Big Hollywood and the writer of the daddy blog Daddylibrium.

1. Could you recap your career to this point?

I went to school to be an artist. I gathered three art degrees that I never have used. At the end of college, I did some freelance work for the Roanoke Times. After college, I got to do freelance work
movie critics reviews
Christian Toto
for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and became a feature writer. I also did entertainment work on the side.

I then worked at a newsletter company, which wasn’t a great fit for me. I then worked at a university, and then went to the Washington Times.

For personal reasons, I moved to Denver and did freelance work. I did some work for Big Hollywood, and have been there for two and a half years in a full-time position.

2. How do you decide which stories to write for Big Hollywood and Daddylibrium?

For Big Hollywood, it’s really about the intersection between entertainment and politics from a conservative perspective. Our readers are generally conservative, so “Noah” and “RoboCop” are two new movies that are of interest to our readers. “Noah” is a biblical story, while “RoboCop” covers current topics such as the use of drones.  

For Daddylibirum, I call the shots because it’s my site. I try to do posts that help dads become better parents and have better marriages. Any tips I can give people based on my experience that will help them is my goal. 

3. How would you describe your approach to writing?

When I’m doing an interview, often I’ll recognize the lead of the story based on experience. For my daddy blog, when my source says something interesting or unique, that sets off my Spidey-sense. For Big Hollywood, if people say something unique, I focus on that. I want to find an interesting way to start things off. After finding a good lead, the rest falls into place. The lead is the hardest. 

4. What has been the most interesting experience interviewing a Hollywood celebrity?

Shooting the breeze with Jack Nicholson. A few journalists and I were just hanging out with him. I interviewed James Brown in his trailer when he had curlers in his hair. He told me to tell my parents that they did a good job raising me. It’s really the odd personal connections with celebrities that are unique. I also understand that there are reasons why people are rich and famous. For instance, I interviewed The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). I was 21 of 22 interviews that The Rock had that day, yet he still was professional and enthusiastic with me. I understand the type of work ethic that takes as well as commitment to his craft and promoting his work. 

5. How has the media changed during your career?

Almost everything has changed. There are fewer and fewer jobs, and less stability in the arena. I believe that I have successfully straddled the line between traditional journalism and the web. I would talk to people five years ago who were fighting the Web. I don’t understand why they were fighting it; the Web was clearly coming.

I feel that I have seen a lot of media outlets get flat-footed as a result. A lot of media outlets are writing the same story. If it snows, they interview a boy who has school off.  

You have to get more creative and think outside the box (pardon the cliché). You have to shake up the model.  

6. What do you see as the future of producing content across various platforms?

I really don’t know. It will be a combination of social media and different platforms. Reporters have to share what they know on social media, focus on keywords in their stories, take photos and more. The journalist of tomorrow has to be really flexible and dynamic. I think that we still don’t know.

7. What types of movies appeal to you?

It’s really a pretty broad spectrum. The kid in me still likes the summer blockbusters. There’s something about being in the theater and having a communal experience. I like films that sneak up on me.  

My tastes still are mainstream for the most part. My eyes roll if I can predict the arc of the story, though.

8. What are some of your favorite stories that you have covered in your career and blog posts that you have written?

Story wise, I used to cover the Kennedy Center Honors. It was great to meet celebrities in a fun atmosphere. I wrote a piece for People magazine about Mattie Stepanek, a boy who had a disease where he couldn’t live into his 20s. He did eventually die. He had me sign his guestbook. I was very impressed that I merited the opportunity to sign that. 

9. How can public relations professionals help you in your job? What are you looking for from them?

Always respect how journalists like to be contacted. E-mail is fine. I don’t like phone pitches – I have too much on my plate. I can analyze things better via e-mail. I don’t mind if people follow up by e-mail if they haven’t heard from me. It’s OK if they provide me some story ideas – that can be kind of fun.  

If I reach out to someone in PR, please keep me posted on the updates about connecting with sources. It helps to know the status of the PR person's efforts in trying to connect with the experts who ultimately will be interviewed. 

10. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I have worked with good PR people. The people who represent film studios both locally and nationally have been great to me. In particular, I would like to give a shout-out to the people at Allied Integrated Marketing

I had bad experiences in D.C. with the D.C. public school system – no one connecting with me, the mailbox was full and more. I never did find out what the deal was with that.      

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!
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