May 2 2017

Earned Media: Why and How to Market Third Party Credibility

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Content marketing is attracting significant buzz at PR and marketing conferences and is the darling of owned and often paid media. Quality of content will range it very high, and when you unite it with likes supplier, you’ll get the winning combination. Yet, the heart of public relations and a solid strategic communications plan is earned media. Why “earned”? Because you can’t buy third party credibility.


Earned media comes in several flavors: an article placement in traditional media (e.g. Washington Post, CNN or CBS Radio), awards and speaking opportunities. While some speakers earn top dollar to keynote a conference, most professionals are invited to deliver a speech or participate on an industry panel to share their expertise – thereby earning credibility from the conference host.

Awards for personal or program accomplishments are earned by professional success as evaluated by your peers or an expert panel. Based on the strength of your narrative and completion of the application requirements, your work is critiqued to determine if it is worthy of recognition and reward.

Having a reporter tell your story brings credibility that you can’t deliver through sponsored content or video that you produced. Often times, media relations results in a single quote in a larger story. Sometimes, it’s a feature story about a product, executive or community investment. In each instance, there’s tremendous value to sharing the article or broadcast report with internal and external stakeholders.

In each case, the outcome of selling your narrative – a speaking gig, an award or an article – brings earned media to your brand. Many have tried to put a price tag on this third party credibility, but it’s difficult to quantify by traditional ROI measures. Therefore, it’s up to you to ensure maximum visibility for the success.

Here are a few common means to ensure the media story, speaking opportunity or award receives attention long-term.

  1. Post to your website with links and photos. Use a pull quote from the article or award citation to highlight the key message.
  2. Include in your email and content marketing campaigns.
  3. Add award badges to your website, presentation materials and collateral.
  4. Share on social media and include photos and video if available. You can also include sample tweets and Facebook posts in a social media toolkit for influencers who can help spread the good word.
  5. Use these earned accolades in paid media if appropriate.
  6. Highlight in your annual report.
  7. Ask influencers to help share the good news (bears repeating).

The best means to ensuring your audience knows about the great media coverage, heralded speech or much-deserved award is to spread the good news. In my agency days, we called this “merchandizing the results.” Today, it’s about using owned media to promote earned media. Paid media services such as Outbrain and Storify should also be considered to maximize visibility.

A well-rounded marketing and communications plan will address earned, owned and paid media. Each has its place in the PR/Marketing mix. Only earned media, however, carries third party credibility.

Note: This article was originally published on

Mar 21 2017

Spreading Your News: Three Storytelling Basics

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In this post-fact era of fake news and alternative facts, it can be discouraging to rise above the noise and position your executive, company or association as a thought leader. However, the basic building blocks of public relations still apply. Here are a few tips to tell your story.

  • Color your narrative. It’s been true since the ancient Greeks, that pathos reigns supreme to logos. In today’s fragmented media environment, evidence needs an emotional connection more than ever. Personalize the facts so that readers and viewers understand the impact, not just the numbers.
  • Connect to current events. You can do this by writing an op-ed or Letter to the Editor to share your opinion on policy, your association’s research or recommendations. You can be a convener and host a policy briefing featuring prominent voices on the issue. Or send reporters a tip sheet of experts who can comment on the day’s news.
  • Tweet – thoughtfully. Sharing opinions and recommendations on Twitter should be part of your communications strategy. If you want your audience to know you, participate in the online conversation by sharing third party content as well as your own. Use Tweet chats to host a dialogue with issue experts, elevate your issue and engage a wider audience.

These are but a few best practices that you can employ to create common practice and build relationships with your audience and reporters alike.

This blog appeared on LinkedIn March 14, 2017

Jan 25 2017

OSA100: Reflecting a Century of Innovation

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Fiber optics, holograms, telescopes, lasers, MRIs, high-speed cameras, LASIK, drones and virtual reality are all possible because of advances in the science of light – more commonly known as the field of optics and photonics. These innovations are ubiquitous in modern society, yet were nascent or not yet imagined in 1916 when The Optical Society (OSA) was founded as the scientific home for optical engineering.

Turning 100 was an opportunity to raise the visibility of the society (now more than 20,000 members worldwide) and promote its role in industry. Given that science societies typically make news through research published in scholarly journals or presented at scientific conferences, the PR focus was on trade media and social media channels utilized by its members. OSA also wanted to use the centennial to strengthen its brand presence and created an exhibit of 100 iconic inventions and inventors tied to the society’s history. Here is a summary of the PR/branding activities and accomplishments, along with some lessons learned.

The key elements and results included:

1)    The OSA 100 exhibit of iconic inventions and inventors was showcased globally at 30 trade shows attracting more than 27,000 visitors. At eight conferences it was accompanied by a “Light the Future” visionary keynote and reception – bringing an additional 4,700 participants. The 10’ x 20’ exhibit is currently on loan to the Rochester (NY) Museum and Science Center. A portable version of the exhibit was on display at 16 universities in 9 countries.

2)    Media featured three partnerships for advertising, news release distribution and a monthly Q&A with OSA members in a trade journal, as well as 18 news releases and proactive pitching, resulting in 1,734 stories, 26 interviews and 25 bylines/blogs with a reach of nearly 4 million.

3)    Social media featured daily facts and graphics about optics and photonics. We held Twitter chats and Reddit AMAs with members – a first for OSA. We collected more than 100 “I am #OSAProud” photos, promoted two contests, shared 148 videos of members – by far the most popular OSA100 content on Facebook – and distributed a toolkit called CAKE for student chapters with nearly 400 downloads. Twitter followers increased by 29%, Facebook by 14% and YouTube by 35%.

4)    The centennial website featured the 100 icons from the exhibit; OSA centennial publications including the “Century of Optics” book; the CAKE toolkit with presentation templates, event guidelines and social media suggestions; Centennial Authentic Moment member videos and a timeline. The website had more than 71,000 visitors with nearly 3,000 publication downloads.

5)    Centennial attracted 17 corporate sponsors providing more than $400,000 in contributions and in-kind media services.

Plan Your Work. Work Your Plan.

How did we achieve those successes? The PR team worked closely with the centennial project director and the OSA volunteer committee to develop the narratives and content used on social media and in media outreach. It began with months of planning including:

1)    Research. You need to know your audience, which we accomplished through focus groups and surveys of leadership, staff and members. We also needed to know the context for 2016. There were numerous centennials last year – National Parks, Boeing, Thermador and BMW to name a few.

2)    Plan Your Work. You need a strategic plan with measureable objectives, but you also need to be flexible and make changes as needed. For example, we didn’t intend to send temporary exhibits to universities. However, once OSA members saw the main exhibit, they wanted to help promote to their local communities. Also, the videos impact on social media and with members was so successful that we continue to record these testimonials.

3)    Work Your Plan. Timelines and deadlines help keep your PR plan on track. We had numerous events throughout the year that allowed us to create a steady stream of content for news releases, social media content and media outreach. We also expected that media pitching would follow the traditional “pitch and place” model.  However, we quickly learned that editors were hungry for content and happy to publish bylines. Once again being flexible, we wrote much more content than originally envisioned. The upside was that it helped us keep the centennial narrative fresh with new angles.

4)    Measure and Evaluate. Quantitative measurements counted what we did. Evaluating and analyzing those numbers throughout the year helped us make adjustments. Unplanned successes are good news. However, not everything will be successful. For example, we planned a video contest “Video the Future” with substantial cash and prize incentives. We had an aggressive offline and social media effort – personally contacting our most active Twitter followers. Not a single submission. We learned that video is popular to consume, but it is not so easy to incentivize members to produce video.

The Optical Society’s centennial year was among the most rewarding challenges of my career. The validations from countless member testimonials were the greatest reward – and confirmation that research and planning are essential for successful implementation and strategic measurement.

Note: This blog was originally published on LinkedIn January 24, 2017

May 22 2013

Nanopunditry: How to Make Your Mark

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A decade ago, many public relations practitioners were struggling to explain to clients the definition of a blog and why interviewing with a blogger, in addition to journalists, was important to build third-party credibility for a company, product or executive.

Today, corporate and executive blogs are commonplace among the nearly 200,000,000 or more blogs vying for readers. Blogging is a proven PR tool to build thought leadership and establish an individual as an issue or industry expert.

During a PRSA-NCC luncheon May 15, marketing expert Geoff Livingston shared his perspective on blogging for thought leadership, a practice he calls being a “nanopundit.”  Not exactly flattering given that nano means “billionth.”

People blog and use social media because it “allows you to circumvent traditional channels,” said Livingston. The challenge to building an audience is to carve your niche and demonstrate your experience.

“Don’t tell people simply what to do or how to do something,” he explained. “Show people through tales of experience and work.”

Livingston, a former journalist, has advised Fortune 500 companies, including AT&T, eBay, Ford and Google, on content marketing and thought leadership. He is also the author of three books on social media and marketing.

“Tip posts are easy,” he continued. “Readers are attracted to your blog when it’s grounded in experience.”

Based on his experiences, Livingston shared five tips to establish thought leadership through blogs or other social media channels.
1) Read a lot. Subscribe to everyone who’s talking about your subject. It forces you out of isolation. When you know what everyone is saying, then you can own the nano niche.

2) Pick channels selectively and do it well. LinkedIn is ideal for B2B. I do Google+ and Twitter. If you do too many social media channels, it will eat you alive. Don’t burn out. Go home and enjoy your life.

3) Lead by example. Do the work. Don’t just talk about it.

4) Lead through service. It makes a difference when people see you giving to the profession or community.

5) Don’t let up once you become nano famous. Don’t let success go to your head.

The PRSA National Capital Chapter is the society’s largest with more than 1,400 members. This luncheon was hosted by the chapter’s 20+ LeaderPack, an exclusive forum for senior level professionals with at least two decades of experience to build relationships, offer support, and jointly address common challenges and concerns.

This post originally appear on PRSA-NCC.

Aug 7 2011

Dogbert’s PR Ethics

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Posted my 400th Tweet this morning. Dogbert’s “PR Ethics” highlight negative perceptions about our craft.“>

I moderated two APR Readiness Review panels a few weeks ago and neither candidate had given the PRSA Code Ethics serious consideration (yet).  I believe we can all benefit from further reflection on the ethical choices we make daily on the job.