Sarah Fraser

How to Be Heard When There Are More PR Pros Than Journalists

Reporters and editors are being laid off, publications are closing, and journalists are crossing over into PR. That’s the world we live in today.

It’s been reported that PR professionals currently outnumber journalists four to one, a gap twice as wide as it was in 1980. With this enormous gap between PR pros and journalists, it’s even harder for PR pros to get the story out.

That said, even though there are fewer and fewer journalists, there are still ways to ensure your story gets out there.

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Sarah Fraser

My Journey to Sterling

Unlike my coworkers, I didn’t gracefully land into PR. Instead, I stumbled and landed (on my face) into the world of public relations.

sex-and-the-city-kim-cattrallAfter deciding that law school wasn’t for me, a friend suggested that public relations might be an industry that would make me happy. The only thing I knew about the industry was what I learned on Sex and the City (á la Samantha Jones) and thought that her life rocked, so why not give it a try. I had two things working for me in entering a new field: I was (1)willing to work for free and (2)put in long hours.

Six months later, I landed an entry-level position at a glitzy agency. It was fast-paced, aggressive, and in a fancy location, but I felt like a tiny cog in a very big wheel.

I was lucky to find Sterling, an integrated communications firm. What drew me in was Sterling’s commitment to its employees. There are ample opportunities to expand upon your skill set. Sterling empowers its employees and allows them to take ownership of their career trajectory. I’m excited to join the team and add to Sterling’s value!

Sarah Fraser can be reached at sfraser@sterlingpr.comFollow Sarah on Twitter @sarahafraser.

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Hypotheses on Google Glass & PR

UnknownOften times, when there is a new technology released, people don’t quite understand the kind of impact that technology will or won’t have.

Few might have predicted that the four-wheel motor vehicle would eventually become a technology owned by just about every family on the block in different colors, shapes, sizes and brands.

There’s been a lot of buzz around the new Google Glass and its capabilities. There have also been a few predictions floating around on how the technology will change our society.

To bring you up to speed, the Google Glass is a wearable, voice-activated computer in the style of eyeglasses, which enable users to seek directions, ask questions, translate language, take pictures, send messages and more—which all sounds pretty cool to me.

If the $1,500 Glasses grow in popularity just as the Ford Model- T did, the potential ways Google Glass could impact our lives are countless.

Here are my thoughts on how Google Glass will change the game for public relations professionals:

1. Pitching and Interviews

No more pitching a story to journalists via phone, email, or even social media. If Google Glass gains enough popularity, video will become the most popular medium for communication. The accessibility and portability will outshine Skype and the iPhone’s Facetime.

With the ability to easily set up a video call with the touch of a button, or voicing a simple command, journalists will expect live product tests, reviews, statements and interviews via video, which can then be put straight into publication.

2. PR Collateral

Besides traditional public relations collateral such as the press release, media kits, infographics, high-res. images, etc., the media will want to see a video that places the public in the action of the product or services you pitch to them.

For example, let’s say your client offers an educational product that replaces the traditional classroom globe with a sphere-shaped touch screen that can play presentations and promotes learning through interaction. The media will be more inclined to do a story if you can provide a Glass video that can show how this product is being used, through the eyes of the consumer themselves.

3. PR Peeps Become Even More Social

The more background we have about someone, the more ways we are able to connect with people.  Google Glass will especially help public relations professionals gather information on a journalist or potential client, and do so quickly, without the distraction of a phone or computer.

Imagine this—You are at a conference or summit and happen to run into an editor or journalist who covers your clients’ industries. You will be able to quickly pull up the last few articles by that writer and skim through to get a background on what that journalist has recently covered.

Google Glass’ live translation will make communication between foreign clients or media a seamless process. You will be able to easily comprehend the other person and be able to better engage in conversation.

Even if my hypotheses are proven false, I’ll stick to my theory on Google Glass having a tremendous impact…perhaps I’ll call it “The Big Bang Theory”.

Natalie Wolfrom can be reached at nwolfrom@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @nwolfrom415.

Amanda

Happy Birthday, Twitter! 7 Ways Twitter Has Changed PR…

TweetYesterday marked the 7th anniversary of the first tweet. For a service that was initially met with much skepticism (why does the world care that I’m eating a sandwich?), Twitter has steadily become a necessary PR tool, taking its place alongside (or in some industries, ahead of) the traditional press release. In honor of Twitter’s 7th anniversary, we have compiled 7 ways Twitter has changed the PR industry as we know it.

  1. Information dissemination. Perhaps the most tangible use of Twitter today is the ability to quickly distribute news to a mass audience. Twitter moves fast, and its users are constantly checking to see what’s happening now. The downside is that it’s easy to miss the opportunity if you don’t jump in quickly, and in some industries or organizations, a lengthy approval process can translate to missed opportunities for the organization. The solution? Sit down with executives, legal, investor relations, and anyone else who may be skeptical of the process and come up with a list of best practices and approved topics.
  2. Scandal. No doubt about it, Twitter can be a double-edged sword for PR pros. While the ability to quickly distribute news and opinions makes for more timely and relevant opportunities for a brand, it can also spell disaster when tweets are not thought through carefully before posting. Just a quick search in our own blog archives shows numerous instances where a Twitter faux pas has been the cause of a major cleanup job for a brand’s PR team (none of our clients, of course!).
  3. Engagement. PR used to primarily serve as a one-way communication function — and often a third party function at that. The traditional chain of command was brand –> journalist –> target audience. With Twitter, conversations look more like brand <–> target audience.
  4. Media relations. In addition to serving as a great channel for connecting brands to their audiences, Twitter has also become a great way for journalists and PR pros to converse, giving journalists story ideas and real-time feedback on their articles, in addition to discussing industry news in general.
  5. Humanization of brands. Whether a large enterprise, your neighborhood coffee shop or a celebrity, Twitter has enabled consumers to feel personally connected to people and organizations they wouldn’t have such close contact with otherwise. This human touch can go a long way in terms of making consumers feel more connected to a brand, knowing there’s a real human on the other side of the computer screen.
  6. Customer service. In the same vein that Twitter has humanized brands, it has also provided a valuable customer service channel. While some brands may shy away from having their dirty laundry aired for all to see in the way of customer complaints, how a brand chooses to address these issues can go a long way in shaping public perception. A brand that’s responsive – even if it’s just to say “email me at ___ and we can discuss this further” – looks more in-tune with the customer than a brand who turns a blind eye to customer complaints. Remember, conversations are happening about your brand, whether you’re a part of them or not.
  7. Viral tactics. How did things go viral before Twitter? Or was this term even a part of our lexicon before then? Whichever the case, there’s no denying that Twitter has been essential in viral marketing campaigns. The very nature of the retweet makes sharing as easy as one click, enabling links, videos and articles to spread like wildfire across a large audience.

So there you have it. 7 ways in which Twitter has changed PR as we know it. Did I leave anything off? Fellow PR pros – how has Twitter changed how you work?

Amanda Hoffman can be reached at ahoffman@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoffmandy.

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How does an aging brand stay hip?

SXSW logoSouth by Southwest (SXSW) just turned 26. For most people, 26 is still a relatively youthful age — a time when idealistic folks are establishing careers, setting up independent lives, and deciding whom they want to become as adults. But for the Austin-based festival dedicated to the latest trends in music, tech and film, 26 years of history can make you look like old news.

It’s become a cliché to talk about how SXSW isn’t what it used to be, that the funky little festival for indie musicians and starving artist filmmakers has lost its soul somewhere along the way to the 62-foot Doritos vending machine stage and homeless people transformed into WiFi hotspots. And while it’s easy to dismiss many of these complaints as hazy nostalgia for an imagined past, this perceived decline in quality over time can be a real problem for many brands.

Whether it’s cultural cachet or dedication to innovation, the human tendency to see the present as not quite measuring up to the past means that a brand must always fight to maintain its reputation. Without constant rejuvenation, a festival, company, or product will always fall somewhere short of its past iteration. So how exactly does a brand like SXSW fight to keep its cool?

Grow

The simplest way for a brand to keep moving forward is to keep growing, and SXSW has done exactly this. In 1987, about 700 people showed up to what was then strictly a music festival. This year there were more than 30,000 attendees for the SXSW Interactive portion of the festival, which is just the part that focuses on new technology. By growth alone, a brand can show that it has outdone its earlier self.

Evolve

Times change, and brands need to change with them. SXSW has never hesitated to embrace new trends, transforming itself from a basic music festival (a model that has been around for about as long as music itself), to a meeting place for people who want to see the latest in technology and art. This has meant adding a film portion to the festival, along with what might be the biggest current draw, SXSW Interactive. While another brand with a particularly long history (if I might classify the Catholic Church as a brand, too) now considers how to adapt to trends among its followers, SXSW freely lets go of its past and embraces the next new thing.

Stay True

Even as they try to embrace new trends, brands must remember not to lose sight of their original mission. While this may be one of SXSW’s weaker points in the eyes of many of its detractors, the fact that the festival has not moved to a city more accommodating of its large numbers (OK, it’s hard to imagine SXSW in Houston), or cut down the amount of festival time dedicated to music, means that the brand has been able to bring on new followers while keeping dedicated fans in the fold. It remains to be seen whether SXSW will be able to balance its unique tradition with the right amount of growth and evolution, but the mixture so far has continued to outdo itself.

Ben Marrone can be reached at bmarrone@sterlingpr.com. Follow him on Twitter @Maronay.

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Is Social Media the New Fortune-Teller? Predicting Oscar Winners Based on Social Media Sentiment

oscars-socialLook no further than social media to predict the winners of award shows – not to mention box office grosses, outcomes of sporting events, and more. For every uninformed social media user, there are many more experts weighing in on events and topics in social media, coming together to offer sound insights and predictions.

General Sentiment, for one, put out its Oscar Predictions report, using social media and Twitter sentiment to predict this year’s Oscar winners in the Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress categories. (General Sentiment is not a Sterling client.)

As it turned out, the General Sentiment report correctly predicted the Best Picture and Best Actor award winners. And, as Meat Loaf said, two out of three ain’t bad!

Our client, Attensity, also got into the prediction action, with its media and entertainment arm, Attensity Media, analyzing social media sentiment and correctly predicting Argo as the Best Picture award winner.

Armed with this 66% success rate, social media sentiment is a valid predictor of awards shows. Add to the mix the aforementioned box office grosses and sporting events, and social media can be used to predict almost anything.

Think what social media can offer in predicting the success of PR campaigns and product launches.

For example, with Attensity, Whirlpool gets early warning for safety and warranty issues and, in many cases, has been able to mitigate expensive recalls through an early view offered via social media analysis. They extrapolate an ~80% savings on their costs of recalls due to early detection with Attensity.

What else can social media be used to predict? Chime in below in the Comments field.

Jordan Hubert can be reached at jhubert@sterlingpr.com. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jahubert.

Photo credit: http://www.thecredits.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Unknown-1.jpeg

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Building a Website? Keep it Simple

Web-Design-300x225Creating, updating, or designing a website for yourself or a client can get to be a little hectic, especially when you begin to think about all the moving parts that are involved in the process.  The important rule to remember when it comes to web projects is to “keep it simple”.

In our office last Thursday, Sterling Communications had the pleasure of listening and learning from the talented web designer, Sarah Mattern of Mattern Communications.

Sharing is caring- so below, I’m sharing with you Sarah’s top 5 ways to simplify your next web project.

1.    Follow a Clear Process: Knowing the steps to take will help guide you through the website building/designing project. Sarah suggests using the following steps as a guideline for the process:

  • Discover- Discussing and understanding what it is that you or your client wants in a website
  • Explore- Do the research, get inspired, and stay focused
  • Design- Draft, review, and revise
  • Build- Code, test, and make refinements
  • Launch- Add the content and go live.

2.    Don’t Make Users Think:  Navigating through a website should flow for a visitor. Be sure to name buttons and links with clear titles. Place those appropriate links onto commonly viewed or corresponding pages.  Thinking about small things such as these should all help make steering through your website simple. Ask co-workers or friends, who aren’t familiar with your website, to visit the webpage and make suggestions for improvements.

3.    Get Inspired: Just like a true artist, you will need to feed your creativity with some inspiration. Browse around websites that you like and note the features or design that may catch your eye.  Sarah shared some her of favorite inspiring websites with us. She recommends:

You may also find inspiration for your website by simply looking at photography or artwork. Really, inspiration can derive from just about anywhere. So just take notes and review them when starting a new web project.

4.    Tell A Story:  Sometimes, the most memorable part of a website is how it might make the visitor feel. Story telling is an engaging way to connect with people, whether it’s spoken, written, or illustrated.  Review your website’s design, function, and content to make certain it tells your story the way you want it to be perceived.

5.    Understand the Building Blocks: This is referring to coding. Proper coding ensures your website functions properly, is formatted correctly, and looks the way you want it to.  Read up, review, and understand proper website coding. Knowing these building blocks will set your website up for success.

Follow these 5 tips and make your next web project as simple as 1,2,3,4,5.  You will save valuable time, money, and hopefully reduce a lot of the stress. If you ever fall off track, just remember to go back to the basics and keep it simple.

Natalie Wolfrom can be reached at nwolfrom@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @nwolfrom415

Photo credit: Study Zilla

Lisa Hawes

Silicon Valley: Ideas “R” Us

"Silicon Valley" premieres on PBS on February 5th.

“Silicon Valley” premieres on PBS on February 5th.

At the Sundance Film Festival last week, one of the most buzzed-about screenings was that of the new Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher. With a second Jobs movie in the planning stage, scripted by Aaron Sorkin from the Walter Isaacson bestseller, Silicon Valley is becoming an entertainment locus for stories as well as the new digital technologies changing how movies are made.

Sorkin kick-started it with The Social Network. Who would have thought a movie about the Internet could be so captivating? Geek culture is suddenly glam. Bravo tried a really bad (in my opinion) “reality” series called Start-Ups: Silicon Valley although most of the 20-something entrepreneurs worked and partied in San Francisco. Mike Judge is currently casting a comedy for HBO called Silicon Valley, which I imagine will have a sensibility similar to that of Office Space, his cubicle-dweller classic.

These shows have dipped a toe in fact but were primarily fiction. If you want insight to the true stories of the pioneers of Silicon Valley —and why they still matter— you have to go back in time much farther than Zuckerberg or even Jobs, to the late Eisenhower era of white button-down shirts, skinny ties, and square black-framed glasses.

On Tuesday, February 5th, PBS will debut a new documentary as part of the American Experience series called —you guessed it— Silicon Valley. It’s the story of the engineers working in the valley’s first semiconductor companies, the ones who put the silicon in Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is a hub of immigrants. I know very few second-generation residents, let alone third-generation ones. Most people who live here know only the barest historical facts about the place. They know of the Gold Rush and the Beats and the Summer of Love in San Francisco, but not the details of how a valley of fruit orchards transformed into office parks in just a quarter-century. They may have heard of the HP garage, but not the Shockley lab or Fairchild Semiconductor — the centerpieces of the documentary.  The reason this is important is that 55 years after the “Traitorous Eight” abandoned Shockley Semiconductor to set up Fairchild, Silicon Valley remains the center of innovation. New data from the Brookings Institution shows that the metropolitan area covering San Francisco south to San Jose, including both sides of the Bay, achieved over 16,000 patents per year on average from 2007 to 2011. The next runner up was the New York metro area with fewer than 7,000. Ideas “R” Us, indeed.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, you can watch Silicon Valley on KQED-TV (Channel 9) at 8:00 p.m., followed at 9:30 p.m. by the 2011 documentary Something Ventured: Risk, Reward and the Original Venture Capitalists, which sheds light on the development of a parallel industry without which the start-up culture could not flourish.

I frequently hear people lament they’ve missed a TV show and then query if it’s available on Netflix. Because Silicon Valley is broadcast on PBS, you’ll be able to catch it at least six times this month on multiple PBS stations (KQED repeats its programs on at least three different channels). Most American Experience documentaries are eventually streamed in their entirety via the PBS website, too, although currently only the 16-minute first chapter is available.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the high tech industry and some of its colorful pioneering personalities, I strongly recommend Robert X. Cringely’s classic Accidental Empires in both its 1992 book and 1996 PBS documentary forms. Cringlely will shortly begin a “reboot” of the book by serialization on his blog, as preparation of a new annotated edition and eBook. I read the book and watched the TV series 15 years ago, when I was planning my move to Silicon Valley, and it got me excited to visit Mountain View and Menlo Park. Yes, really!

Lisa Hawes can be reached at lhawes@sterlingpr.com. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisakayhawes.

Amanda

2013 Predictions

Hooper, Patel and Dyor at the WTIA Predictions event.

Last week, the Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA), a Sterling client, hosted their annual “Predictions” event – bringing together some of the brightest minds in the Seattle tech industry to get their take on what trends and events defined the previous year — and what will be big in the coming year. This year’s panel was unique as it looked at the tech industry from a VC perspective, as all panelists came from various stages in the investment process.

From the traditional VC perspective was Steve Hooper, founding partner at Ignition. Matt Dyor, managing director of the Microsoft Accelerator, spoke from the incubator perspective; and Sujal Patel, former president at Isilon, shared his viewpoint as an angel investor. The panel was moderated by Enrique Godreau III, managing director at GSharp Ventures.

When asked what was one of the most important qualities of a company seeking funding, all agreed that the willingness to listen was important. According to Hooper, “If they can’t listen, they can’t take advice.”

When Godreau asked the panel their opinion as to what trends were on their way out, Dyor was quick to note that zero revenue models are waning. Companies and investors now are interested in monetizing from the start. Patel said that VCs have already funded too many cloud companies, and Godreau noted that that consumer Internet entertainment is overcrowded.

Panelists were next asked what scares them, and most agreed that losing our entrepreneurial spirit would be the demise of innovation. According to Hooper, certain government regulations could threaten an environment that fosters entrepreneurialism. Patel noted that China and India are poised to step in and fill America’s entrepreneurial shoes, should the U.S. lose its entrepreneurial drive. On a related but more local scale, Dyor cited the talent flight to Silicon Valley, should entrepreneurship wane in the Pacific Northwest. Godreau cited an entirely unrelated fear and a valid question: “who owns my ‘data exhaust?’”

When asked which industry is next to be transformed by technology, Dyor answered with “my inbox.” Patel referred back to “data exhaust,” noting that big opportunities await for those who find a way to analyze it and turn into action. Hooper hoped we would continue to evolve phones, citing technologies such as RFID and calling us a “click and done society.” Godreau believed the next revolution was lurking in the education industry, which stands to impede the next generation of entrepreneurs if standards don’t improve.

Next, Godreau asked the panelists what they were surprised hasn’t been fixed yet. Both Hooper and Patel referred to phones again, with Hooper lamenting why in this day and age, we still find dropped calls normal and acceptable. Patel commented on how ridiculous it was that email is still so limited on your smartphone. Godreau laughed at the fact that three way conference calls are still so difficult!

When asked whether there is a social media bubble, both Dyor and Godreau agreed that the next step is finding value. According to Godreau we’ve delivered entertainment, now how to we deliver value?

In closing, Hooper noted that there’s a lot of money to be raised, even in bad times. If it’s a great idea, great ideas get funded.

Patel added that there are so many misunderstood ideas, where no one believes in a product but the founder.

Misunderstood ideas? Sounds like clear messaging and a good communications strategy may be the answer, if you ask me!

Amanda Hoffman can be reached at ahoffman@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoffmandy.

Image via GeekWire.com.