Stuff and ThingsTop 50 UK PR Blogs 2013Top 50 UK PR Blogs 2013

Forget churnalism, great journalism is still what matters to PR

newspaper-412441_640Over the past decade or so, the media industry has developed dramatically. Firstly, the advancement of technology has meant that it has become far easier for people to get online and consume information, than ever before. According to recent research by the United Nations agency that oversees international communications, the number of Internet users has increased from 738 million in 2000 to 3.2 billion in 2015. This has meant that journalists are now having to provide a continuous flow of new information to inform its readers across the globe. This in some cases resulted in churnalism, the word given to journalistic content that only contains press releases or wire stories. 

Secondly, the industry is now said to be, for the first time home to more PRs than journalists. This growth, however, is often blamed by critics, as opposed to celebrated, for the decline in old school journalism, as journalists rely more so on PR-generated content.

A couple of years ago, Chris Atkins, a journalist who wanted to demonstrate how often this was happening flooded the market with several hoax press releases, with the majority of these releases becoming the newspapers most read story.

Certainly PR plays a big role in servicing this need for a constant flow of news, however to say it simply supports churnalism is missing the point, as there are number of different ways PRs can help journalists. Take issue responses, for example, a key tool in any successful PR campaign. PRs provide journalists with expert comment and analysis to back up their story and give their readers insight and different lines of thought to consider. The material we provide can also act as a lead generator – alerting the journalist or the publication to a story that they may have not already been aware of. By-lined articles are another aspect of PR that offers a publication’s audience relevant and entertaining insight. Years ago, PRs could release a detailed product release on upgrade 2.2.4 and expect some great pieces of coverage. This is no longer the case. In the incredibly competitive world of journalism, publications are competing to be and provide the best for their readers and are after far more than a new product description. Journalists require good analysis and opinion, which is where our client step in.

From my personal experience, journalists are not often an easy crowd to please and are incredibly selective as to what they publish. As a result, PR content that they use always needs to be of particular interest to its readers and in line with the publication’s messaging. Due to the fast moving nature of online media and the battle for click-throughs, churnalism is a product of the age we live in, but good quality stories from trusted sources still hold the best PR value.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Aligning PR Strategy to Organisational Goals

goal-863365_640One of the biggest challenges PR bods face when trying to demonstrate RoI to clients is that, typically, it is not a lead-generating activity. Unlike marketing, where you can see the click-throughs rolling in, it is much harder to determine if a lead has come from a certain piece of coverage or report. PR is much more about raising awareness, establishing credibility, and helping clients to be seen in the right places so that they can make those all-important RFP shortlists. 

For PR to be effective, it needs to be aligned to sales and the organisational aspirations of the company we are working with. This is why it is vital to have an in-depth understanding of what these goals are and support this with activities that will get you in front of the right people, so that they can influence, educate and secure new business. In addition to that, in order to get the most from PR, clients need to share and socialise content and coverage internally and externally. Here are a few examples of how PR can align itself with sales to help meet strategic business goals:

  1. Driving interest in a new product or service: While those in the industry will know, product news does not drive the levels of coverage it once did; yet this is not to say that product or services launches are redundant. The critical thing for a product or service launch is to have a clear audience and strong message that talks to challenges this audience faces. For example, our client ElasticHosts recently launched a sister company, io. is a pure container-based cloud service, which provides usage-based billing, helping customers to reduce costs and avoid over-provisioning. It was targeted predominantly at smaller organisations with limited internal IT resources. As a direct result of the press coverage achieved from the launch – which included titles such as Computer Weekly, Business Cloud News, V3, Network World, to name just a few – also had a number of visits to its website and sales enquiries; as there had been no other marketing push aside from the PR, this traffic can directly attributed to the articles that appeared.
  1. Targeting new vertical markets: It is hard to crack into a new industry and part of that challenge is that often businesses can lack the customer references making it hard to establish credibility. PR can help with this by providing a means for clients to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise – either through opinion pieces or through creating statistics and news that helps to educate the market about a problem. A great example of where we have executed on this brief was with our client Egress, an encryption technology provider. The business was focused on targeting financial services organisations, so we helped to craft a Freedom of Information request to show that fines for data breaches in this sector were on the increase. We broke the news during the Infosecurity Europe show, gaining coverage within the main pages of the Financial Times. As a result, Egress said a number of banks and FS companies visited the stand and were asking about the research, helping to provide a conversation starter with prospects.
  1. Repositioning the business: Companies spend years cultivating their brand to ensure their customers and the wider market understand who they are and what they do. This is key to getting on shortlists, but changing perceptions can be very difficult and take a long time. One of our clients, Dynatrace, has been going through this process over the past year. It was previously a public listed entity under the Compuware brand, but went private in September last year. As part of this move, it has re-established itself as a digital performance company and made strategic acquisitions to cement its position as the world’s largest APM business. To support the rebranding and repositioning of the company, we have arranged a number of briefings to talk about the new direction of the company, hooking into the wider trend in the IT sector of companies moving from public to private ownership. Examples include: Diginomica, ‘Dynatrace – exploiting private equity for freedom and growth’; The Register, ‘Dynatrace and Keynote are borging into a super-APM outfit’; Computing, BMC Software, Compuware and now Tibco: Why are more and more software companies being taken over by private equity?; and ComputerworldUK, ‘Dynatrace and Keynote merge to form largest APM Company in the world’.

If you want your PR programme to be a success, then it is vital to keep your team updated on where the business is going and how you want to be perceived. Failing to communicate your organisation’s strategy will only create disappointment on both sides and reduce the RoI for your PR campaign.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Coverage Cup round up

Coverage cupHere at Spark we have had a busy couple of weeks and have achieved some fantastic results for a range of our clients. The HCL team has gone and won the Coverage Cup with several top-tier hits in titles such as IDG Connect, TechWorld and Econsultancy, following HCL and Manchester United’s digital partnership announcement earlier last week. It was a close call for second place as the Verizon, Trustmarque and ViaSat teams secured coverage in a couple of Times supplements.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have achieved some great by-line placements. Verizon’s Laurance Dine’s financial security by-line was successfully featured in Financial IT. Next up was Fruition’s Paul Cash, who received by-line coverage in CBR for his article on End User IT Analytics. Lastly, but by no means least, an article By Digital Assess’, Dan Sandhu was placed with the Training Journal.

Elsewhere, Guavus’ new product announcement was featured in Vanilla Plus. Egress received coverage in the International Business Times following the data breach at a London health clinic, which quoted the company’s CEO, Tony Pepper. Finally, The Elsevier team scored top-tier news publication in Fierce Biotech IT following their partnership announcement with University College London.

The full list of Coverage Cup nominations can be found below – who gets your vote?

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Coverage Cup round up w/c 17 August 2015

Coverage cupA busy week at Spark saw some great coverage in a range of top-tier publications. The Bell Integration team achieved fantastic results by piggybacking Gartner’s Hype Cycle Research Report. Andy Soanes, CTO of Bell Integration, was quoted within Computer Weekly, CBR and Cloud Computing Intelligence amongst others. The Compuware and HCL teams secured thought-leadership feature coverage in FSTech on the subject of core-banking systems. Meanwhile, Ampersand earned a great piece of coverage within TechWeek Europe on how IoT can save humanity. Ampersand achieved further success with coverage in PostandParcel for a case study with Pelipod, the developer of a smart parcel delivery box. 

The full list of Coverage Cup nominations for the week can be found below:

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Top tips for writing a winning press release

typingWriting is the bread and butter of PR. A normal week’s writing can range from drafting a quick quote, penning a 5,000 word whitepaper, jotting an opinion article, or of course, scribing a press release. The press release is certainly one of the most frequent writing tasks and is a much-maligned tool in the PR’s arsenal. However, reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

Every so often, the subject of the press release being ‘dead’ rears its head. Yet, clients still want them, and more importantly, so do journalists! So, PR agencies keep writing them, in their thousands. It’s high time, then, to recap some top tips for writing a press release – because they’re not going anywhere any time soon!

  • Mind your language – as Alex recently blogged, PR ‘speak’ can be littered with phrases that turn journalists off and actually add nothing to your content. Steer clear of any marketing jargon, stick to facts, and under no circumstances should you use the word ‘leverage’.
  • Don’t oversell – in a similar vein to the previous point, avoid telling people your product/service etc. is ‘unique’ or ‘innovative’ (Dominic also has some thoughts on this), because words such as these are so frequently overused that they reduce the power of your release.
  • Know your limits – some press releases are not going to get press attention, and that’s fine, but know your limits and know what you want to achieve with the release. A strong customer story is a coverage winner, a minor product update is a useful ‘FYI’ for prospects, customers, and some media, and will help boost SEO – rather than guarantee you coverage.
  • A picture says a thousand words – this tip applies to lots of other written content like case studies and by-lined articles, but sending images with a press release can save journalists a lot of time trying to find one to match, and can bring a story to life. Just make sure they are of a high resolution, or they will be useless.
  • We are delighted – that might be so, but so is every other company out there! Press release quotes that start with ‘we are delighted’ are a well-known menace in the world of PR and journalism. Try to think of another way to express your ‘delight’, and explain why your announcement is good for your customers, not just why it makes you happy.

The important thing to remember when writing a press release is to keep the journalist in mind. Think about what information the journalist needs in order to write a story, and ensure you are giving that information in a clear, concise way – no-one is going to read a 1,000 word press release, however beautifully crafted it is!

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment