Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the PRSA 2017 International Conference with Kelly Womer. The theme, “The Spirit of the Revolution: Communications in the 21st Century,” was fitting as the Conference took place in Boston, one of America’s oldest cities and a place where some say the American Revolution first began. While communications has obviously changed tremendously since the 1700s, it may be less about a revolution today and more about a continual evolution.
The event provided an opportunity to hear from some of the top communications leaders in our industry and to say I learned a lot is an understatement. From the variety of different sessions I attended, here are my top three takeaways:
1. Videos are here to stay: According to the media relations and social media gurus at Georgia Institute of Technology, in two short years, 80 percent of the content we see and use will be video. This comes as no surprise as you scroll through your Facebook and Instagram feed and most of what you see, or more importantly what is most likely to catch your eye, is video. So how do we leverage this growing trend for traditional media outreach? Storytelling is a huge part of what we do as PR professionals but sometimes words just aren’t enough. If you have the time to create a short video or take a still photo that would complement and help explain the story you’re pitching, try it. Reporters are more likely to respond to a pitch they can visualize which in turn can help you land a story for your client. As with any new strategy though, there are exceptions. Sometimes videos and photos don’t make sense for the story that you’re pitching, so be smart and don’t share visuals just to share them.
2. Obey the FTC guidelines — it’s the law: Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent out more than 90 letters reminding influencers and marketers to clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media. As a result, we as influencer marketing managers are responsible for understanding the rules put in place by the FTC and ensuring our influencer partners and clients are following them. This means providing approved language in your contracts and monitoring your partners’ posts for accuracy. It’s no longer acceptable to simply use #sp or #partner. Instead make sure your partnership is clear by using #ad or #sponsored within proximity to the brand message. It’s also a common misconception that when you send an influencer a product sample, you don’t have to disclose the partnership. This is not the case. Anytime there is an exchange of products or money, the influencer must disclose using the approved hashtags. For a full list of FTC guidelines be sure to visit its website and check out my latest blog for tips to successfully manage an influencer program.
3. Follow up is key to securing a news story: Did you know 80 percent of earned news stories are a result of follow up with a media contact? According to Michael Smart from Michael Smart PR, after crafting a well-developed pitch and identifying the appropriate contact at your target outlet, follow up is essential for landing stories for your clients. More often than not, our own self-doubt causes us to steer clear from too much follow up, and we worry we’re bugging a reporter or being too aggressive. But since the changing media landscape makes it harder to earn media coverage, communication professionals must be proactive and confident. If you haven’t heard back from a reporter, try following up after 24 hours to see if they have any interest. If you still haven’t heard back, try following up with a new story angle or visual asset to accompany the pitch. Still no word? Give them a call to talk through the pitch. It’s important to remember that as PR professionals, our obligation to our clients is to not quit until you’re sure your contact at least read and considered your story.