Chicago Sun-Times Decision to Cut Photography Staff Signals Opportunity for Brands

In a move that is raising eyebrows amongst media-watchers, the Chicago Sun-Times today announced the layoff of its entire photography staff.  While the fact that the economic outlook for many traditional news media outlets is grim is definitely not new news, this strikes me as being utterly the wrong move.

Almost all of the new developments in content sharing, digital media consumption and social media are centered around visuals.  Entire social networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Vine are built on visual content.  YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine. Facebook and Twitter have put digital content front and center for their users. The algorithms that search engines and social networks used to determine what we see all give visuals more weight.

These are just a few of the reasons why it is difficult to overstate the importance of visuals in today’s information environment and communications arenas.  Humans are visual animals, and if you want to attract a human audience, you need visual content, period.

But simply having a visual isn’t enough.  A bad visual will not generate good traffic or good engagement.  To be effective, the visual must serve the audiences interest. Traditionally, news photography has set the standard for compelling imagery and visual storytelling, thought that may be going by the wayside now.   According to reports today, the Sun-Times plans on asking reporters to “provide” pictures and videos to accompany the stories.

Journalistic sentiments aside, I smell an opportunity for PR, which was the topic of my post titled “Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off Photographers & Opens Door for Newsworthy Third Party Content” over on Beyond PR.



Confirmation: Social Authority does Influence Search Rankings

Thought Google Realtime has changed significantly (among other things, the deal with Twitter was not renewed) the influence of social interaction on the visibility of content is undeniable.

Beyond PR

Earlier this week we published a post about communicating in real-time, in which we discussed how quickly search engines surface conversations in social networks, and, furthermore, how social relevance also contributes to overall visibility for messages in search engines.

Yesterday SEO guru Danny Sullivan was able to confirm with both Google and Bing that “human authority” authority is in fact considered by both engines as they index content.   In a nutshell, writes Rand Fishkin on the SEOmoz blog, this means that links shared on Facebook and Twitter do in fact have a direct impact on search rankings.

Fishkin’s post makes some educated guesses about what sort of metrics search engines are using to gauge social authority, including:

  • Diversity of the people you influence – more is better
  • Relevance of surrounding content to subject matter (probably an indicator of expertise)
  • Quality of friends/followers – whether or not you influence fellow…

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PR in the Moment: Lessons from Real-Time Search Pros

The conversation with iCrossing’s Rob Garner that fueled this post really sparked my understanding of (and interest in) the real-time opportunities the accelerated and connected world of social networks presented to communicators.  David Meerman Scott has since labeled a related opportunity “Newsjacking.”  PR Newswire is calling the concept (broadly) “Agile Engagement.”   However you describe it, the opportunities a heads-up, dialed-in communicator has these days are boundless.  But you have to be paying attention.

Beyond PR

Last week I listened into a webinar hosted by Search Marketing Now on the subject of real-time search, featuring Rob Garner of iCrossing.  As is often the case with these things, I walked away bristling with new information, and some interesting insight for PR.

Real-time search (“RTS”) is the immediate inclusion of information from social networks in search results. Like traditional search, RTS is based on crawler based algorithms – the search engines actively go out, find information on web sites, and index it. But there’s a new twist.  Search engines are also bringing in content from the human driven social layer.  Google in particular is adept at integrating content from the social layer.  This is real-time content – Tweets, comments and other interactions.  And it’s changing what search engine users see in their search results – which is driving change in human behaviors.

Sources of real-time content


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What’s stopping your organization from using social media effectively?

This was the first blog post I sourced from a conversation on LinkedIn.  I posed the question to a group of PR pros, and got some great insight.  Fast forward a year and a half, and many of the issues they highlighted still persist.

Beyond PR

While many companies are using social media to build relationships with their customers, position their experts as thought leaders, deliver customer service and generate leads, many more are struggling to get started.  Commonly cited barriers to launching social media programs include:

  • Fear:  The perceived risks of being active in social networks have hobbled institutional will
  • Lack of resources or time:  Communcations and marketing departments are running on minimal budgets and lean staffs
  • Concerns about measurement and demonstrating ROI – especially important when budgets are constrained
  • Regulatory constraints

How to overcome intertia? A recent seminar by Michael Pranikoff, PR Newswire’s director of emerging media, offered some stats and tips.

One particular key to getting a social media program off the ground  is finding the internal champion to sell the program to internal stakeholders. You’ll need someone who can educate others and make the case across departments and budgets.   In so many…

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The importance of earnestly developing an audience

Beyond PR

The latest doom and gloom forecast for traditional media came via a recent  Harris Interactive poll, which found that more than 55% of adults in the U.S. believe that traditional media will no longer exist as we know it in ten years.

I’d ask a different set of questions.  Like do you think there will be interest in investigative reporting 10 years from now?  Or, are you likely to want to see local news in the next ten years?  How about in-depth news analysis?  Or are you interested in watching more news in video format?

The overwhelming answer to these questions would have been yes.  And these are parts of the franchise that traditional media has not yet lost.  In fact the same poll found that 67% of respondents prefer to get their news via such traditional sources as newspapers, television and print magazines.

So the most important issue is…

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Networked content: Tips for using content online

Beyond PR

Press releases have long been stock-in-trade for public relations.  However, in today’s age of networked content, you can do a lot more with a simple press release – or other message -than you might have imagined.   Here are a few simple tips to turn your press releases into powerful online channels that drive traffic and generate visibility for your organization.

  • Link!  Content distributed via PR Newswire is syndicated across thousands of different web sites. Direct interested readers straight to relevant pages on your web site – and build backlinks (important from an SEO standpoint) for your organization too – by linking an important keyword or two to related web pages.   Be sure to link from keywords (not phrases like “click here” or “more information”) and put the links within the first paragraph.    One or two keyword links per press release is ideal.
  • Write with social media in mind. Encourage people…

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SEO en Espanol: Integrating SEO and PR to Reach the US Hispanic Audience

Beyond PR

How do you reach the Hispanic audience in the US?  The same way you reach your other constituents – online, with social media and search engine optimization.  PRSA Miami held a webinar this week focused on how PR pros can use SEO tactics to raise the visibility of their messages targeting the fast-growing US Hispanic audience.

Source: eMarketer, Hispanics Online: Demographics & Media Usage, 5/10

The vast majority of Hispanic households in the US have internet access – upward of 70%.  Not surprisingly, search engine marketing is the most effective – and cost effective – means of marketing to this group.    There are a few key differences, however, to which we need to pay attention:

  • Google is the search engine of choice, and is the engine upon which you should focus your efforts.
  • Mobile devices are hugely popular in Latin America, and among Hispanics in the US, and…

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Humanizing the Brand: Tips for Engaging Facebook Fans

Beyond PR

Engaging Facebook fans and building visibility within this burgeoning social network was the focus of a recent PR Newswire educational webinar featuring Ekaterina Walter, social media strategist at Intel. The presentation was loaded with tactical advice, and framed by two important ideas:

Facebook is (in and of itself) a unique attention market.

Facebook is the place where people are going to hang out, interact – and seek information.  In fact, earlier this year, Facebooks’ traffic exceeded Google’s. The opportunity for marketers is clear – Facebook is embedded in the daily habits of hundreds of millions of people.  It’s created a new attention market that has its own set of rules.

Facebook’s ROI is in humanizing the brand, not in generating direct sales.

While it’s easy to get caught up in Facebook’s very attractive demographic numbers (more than 40% of households using Facebook have incomes in excess of $70,000) a central…

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Social Media for B2B Companies – A Report from SocialTech 2010

Beyond PR

Social media and audience engagement strategies for technology-sector B2B companies were front and center at yesterday’s SocialTech 2010 conference. Hosted by MarketingProfs and IDG, the event featured some of social media’s heaviest hitters and in-depth looks how some big technology brands like SAP, Intel and Adobe have integrated social media deeply into their communications strategies.

Even in the B2B context, social media has changed communications practices, strategies and tactics for some savvy players.  These organizations have essentially made social interaction a pillar of their marketing programs.  We’re not talking about merely bolting-on a Facebook page or sticking a few videos up on Youtube.

This sort of sea-change has developed some new truths in its wake that run counter to traditional marketing and PR practices.  These include:

  • Communicators need to trade information (such as that gleaned from a registration page) for interaction.
  • Interactions with engaged audiences have a high value –…

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Personalizing Social Media Programs – Generating True Interaction

Beyond PR

What do big brands making successful use of social media channels like giants GM, JetBlue and Kenmore have in common with the Roger Smith Hotel (a small arts hotel in New York) and Ramon DeLeon (a Chicago-based owner of six Domino’s Pizza stores)?  The answer: all have built successful social media presences that deliver genuine business results – and all have mastered the art of interacting individually with members of their audience.

The interactions begin universally with the folks behind the brand handles on Twitter and the accounts on Facebook, who pay close attention to what their online followers and friends are saying – and respond in person.

“I’m building relationships on Twitter all day,”says Richard Goldsmith of Kenmore, and the voice behind @kenmoreconnects on Twitter.

Adam Wallace (@adwal) of the Roger Smith Hotel agrees in principle.  “It’s so important to remember that the in-person connection and relationships drive the…

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