5 Things to Remember when Blogging this Year

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This time last year I wrote an article for ProBlogger entitled “8 Reasons Why Students Should Blog”. The post is still well received to this day with over 600 re-tweets! The post set out why students should blog but could actually apply to anyone considering taking up the reigns of blogging.  Now that we are the start of another year I have taken the effort to revise a few of the reasons here.

If you are thinking about getting into the swing of blogging this year, here are a few things you should remember.

1)      Your blog shapes the professional internet
Your personal internet is shrinking. Once signed into Google all your results will be personalised based from previous searches and what your network of contacts have recommended. The purpose of this functionality is to make search results more relevant for everyone but at the same time, much content is being censored, being pushed back through the search results.

Think of your chosen industry as a spider’s web, each strand connected to a professional who could have that dream job for you. Blogging enables you to become one of those stands on the web and stand among your industry’s thought leaders.

2)      Mobile is BIG
With the number of smartphone users in the UK to double between 2012 and 2016, from 19.2 million to 41.9 million, it’s essential to be creating compatible content. Blogging is one of the few channels which can easily adapt its content across a whole range of platforms. I know that this blog can be read on my PC, smartphone, tablet, even my Xbox. All it takes is a few free WordPress plugins and you have compatibility which many companies still pay thousands for. The challenge for blogging is to create diverse content which can still hit a number of platforms.

This year I am probably going to write an estimated 25,000 words on this blog of which 12,500 are probably going to be read on mobile devices (judging from this site’s stats).

3)      Blogging takes a lot of stamina
This point remains relatively unchanged from last year because blogging is still tough. The whole public relations industry produces but still struggles with content. The blogging sphere is so crowded that getting your voice heard above others can be really difficult. To tackle this effective blogging requires the support of social networks and, for public relations students, it’s worth adding yourself to the CIPR Conversation.

If you believe that rather tongue-in-cheek point from CEO of Econsultancy, Ashley Friedlein, then 2013 will be the year of the long blog post.

4)      Consider other forms of advertising
There is nothing wrong with trying to make some money blogging. However, using banners ads can be a painfully long process to pay off. Instead consider other forms of advertising such as sponsored posts, anchored links (although this is gradually being killed off due to search changes) or selling premium content. With the growth of eBook readers consider self-publishing short books – the online space is full of money making options.

5)      Your fellow bloggers
It’s all very well learning the latest bit of public relations theory, how to build effective campaigns and having conversations with the experts but go back to the basics. Remember to follow, recommend and comment on other blogs. Blogging is a community activity and in all likelihood your traffic levels will be partly reliant on the recommendations of others.

And remember, blogging is a marathon and not a sprint.

 

Now, what have I missed?

5 Tips for Building your PR Campaigns this year

Introducing social media elements to a public relations campaign requires more focus than tailoring content for Twitter and Facebook (which really is a 2008 mentality). Instead, we should focus on the wider media mix.

Remember: campaigns aren’t split as traditional public relations and social media; instead we just see the media.

When running a public relations campaign this year it is worth bearing in mind:

1)      Break down communication channels
Understand all the communication channels that will be used in a campaign and then build a strategy for how they will all interconnect with each other. This may include the usual mix of GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook & Amazon) but stretch out a little bit. Remember that newspapers and radio can comfortably sit alongside online channels.

2)      Niches can mean big wins
Segmenting audiences online is a tough business and automatic segmentation, such as drilling down on what users have written in their profiles, can miss key influencers in the long run. Remember that people online will congregate around values and that the stakeholders in your campaign can be drilled down to individual value subsets. This is closely aligned to my research last year.

3)      Content is still king
The public relations industry has been creating outstanding content since the time of Edward Bernays. Yet some clients make content creation difficult (through lack of news or tough sells) and this can cause campaigns to really struggle. Tackle this by part sourcing content from online, share the positive sentiment of your customers (remember to keep copyright in mind!).

4)      Remain fresh
Throughout campaigns be open to new strategies and tactics. The next Twitter could be around the corner or already exist as a growing social media site. Keeping up-to-date with the latest digital communication news can be tough. Follow industry bloggers and those who work in digital (like me!). Reading, attending events and trying out new approaches keeps the industry fresh.

5)      Measurement is crucial
Although this is my last point it should really be at the top of the list. Measurement is key for the public relations industry to survive against online advertising and marketing. It happens before a campaign for identifying audiences and influencers, critical for monitoring and necessary for showing results at the end. Before you start any campaign understand how you are going to measure each part of it.

 

Google+ Local Launches

A stark contrast exists between a ‘social network’ and a ‘community’. Whilst I may exist on Twitter, it would be impossible for anyone to say that this is a community. The users I communicate with are rarely the same and the network is constructed on the notion of following strangers based upon interest. In comparison a forum system builds relationships between users – that emotional connection is essential for community.

Over the last few days Google has replaced Google Places with its newly launched Google+ Local. Not only is this a drive to incorporate Google+ into its location based services but it is expected to attract business owners to Google’s Places service.

Google+ Local, according to the search giant helps improve how people discover and share local businesses inside Google+. Below is an excerpt from Google’s blog post.

“With the release of Google+ Local, rolling out today, we are bringing the community of Google+ to local business owners around the world. We aim to improve the way people discover new businesses, rediscover places they love, and share them with their friends across the web.”

At the end of May news appeared of Google’s partnership with review service Zagat. Gound breaking in many respects as this previously, exclusively premium service, is now being offered through Google+ Local for free. A quick visit to Google+ Local this morning revealed a list of local restaurants, heavily focused on consumer reviews, appearing near my current location near Gloucester.

There is no doubt that, coupled with review functionality, Google has started to heavily tread on the toes of Foursquare and Facebook Places. It offers a more convinient service that having to ‘check in’ constantly and delivers premium review content from Zagat.

The quick development of Google+ just goes to show how influential social networks are in this current age and puts other networks, such as Microsoft’s so.cl, to shame. Whilst the majority of users (in my experience) still use Facebook frequently, Google+ will begin to gain new users thanks to its updates. Whether Google+ is the ideal network for real world friends to connect with each other is a different matter altogether. Currently Google+ appears to be the perfect place for mutual contacts to share and discuss – I may be wrong though.

At the beginning of 2012 my PR class were debating to write a book on Google+ but it never went ahead. I’m glad. The network is developing so quickly and for PR purposes constantly changes. When a business gets involved with Google+ the main benefit is SEO. However every local business (especially retail) cannot afford to miss out on Google+ Local. Consumers are already talking openly about you online, digital PR has never been more important.

An insightful, intellectual and interesting chat with Neville Hobson

 

Neville Hobson

Neville Hobson first began blogging in 2002, a hobby which grew to incorporate how a business should communicate using digital communication channels. Today he has over 25 years’ experience in public relations, marketing communication and financial relations. His acclaimed statis is clearly exampled by his popular Twitter profile boasting over 10,000 followers.

Today my class and I were fortunate enough to meet him thanks to our lecturer David Phillips. Due to unforseen circumstances involving smoke and a broken car Neville Hobson met the class via Skype but this by no means detracted from him sharing his knowledge and insight. You can read his views of this event in his latest blog post, which is accompanied with a rather fetching picture of my face (pixalation is a godsend in this case).

During the one hour discussion which involved members of the class asking questions relating to the PR industry Neville Hobson shared his views concerning digital communication, intellectual property laws, ethics and his own online activities. Out of all the discussions my main focus point was the PR industry’s approach to online measurement.

I’m still unsure to whether Neville Hobson knows that I partially analysed his Twitter feed within my dissertation to example some basic techniques behind Latent Semantic Analysis (for more information concerning this technique visit this post). So listening to his views, especially his distaste for Klout, reinforced just how critical measurement is for the PR industry.

The insights he shared concerning measurement were rather similar to mine in the sense that agencies ‘in the know’ are attempting to reach their own standardisations, especially Edelman but pinpointing how reputation should be measured is difficult. Do 5000 Facebook ‘likes’ equate to reputation? Does positive sentiment lead to good reputation? These questions deserve blog posts in their own right.

A couple of members from the class put a heavy focus on the social connotations of social media. How these platforms could effect society as a whole through allowing collaboration in business, schools and in our personal lives. Neville Hobson indicated that it is still the case that the minority of people use these social tools but that minority is growing. Social media should compliment our work rather than become the main objective.

It was a very informative class and a wonderful opportunity to speak with one of the thought leaders in the PR industry. Perhaps the most important question I should have posed to Neville Hobson is “Do you fancy meeting in the future for a beer?”. Hopefully one day.

 

Facebook is not a PR Godsend

I’ll begin this article by casting my mind back to early 2010. As part of a second year University assignment (overseen by the observant Richard Bailey) we had to deliver a PR presentation to Gloucestershire Police. The brief instructed us to build a campaign to curb the amount of binge drinking locally over the festive season. The class was split into groups.

In my group we decided that in order to fulfil the client’s objectives we should arrange a number of publicity stunts and thought provoking materials which could be distributed to drinking establishments. We came second place. The winning team won because they were brilliant (all the group members are good friends of mine) but also because they mentioned FACEBOOK.

Why didn’t my team mention Facebook? It wasn’t relevant for our campaign. This invokes me to make an important point.

Facebook isn’t always necessary
On a number of occasions client work has resulted in a conversation concerning Facebook. Every PR campaign is different but most of the time I find myself asking:

  • Will Facebook effectively raise awareness?
  • Will Facebook effectively raise sales?
  • Will Facebook cause any user conversions (outside of sales)?

In my experience Facebook’s effectiveness surrounding raising awareness is good but difficult to measure. One cannot consider ‘likes’ alone which makes ‘mentions’ the only worthwhile factor. In terms of conversions and sales I have found other websites which work much better in comparison to Facebook.

The most important factor isn’t so much the tactics which a campaign uses but instead…

What is your narrative?
PR is primarily concerned with finding a narrative, a story behind a product/service. This is in direct contrast with advertising (in all forms) which shamelessly shouts features and benefits in order to charm consumers to part with their money.

The number of organisations who are on Facebook shamelessly promoting themselves is staggering and this indicates a poor PR strategy. Your narrative has to be believable, cross channel and targeted towards specific publics.

If you are a client then consider what benefits using Facebook has for your product, service or organisation.

Man cannot live on social media alone
Stop using the term “social media”, it is limiting. Instead talk about Digital PR, talk about blogger engagement, talk about forum discussions – in fact stop talking and instead listen. If you are talking about Facebook then also discuss measurement methods.

SEO is a Crucial Component of Public Relations

My grandad called yesterday to announce he had “found a great company online called Finlux”. According to their website they are the world’s third largest television manufacturer. A look over their product list reveals budget prices and impressive specifications. I was sceptical. Why in my 21 years on this planet had I not heard of this manufacturer? I had to investigate further.

I had two choices:

1)    Take the information on their about page as truth

2)    Search Google for further information

I chose option 2.

Finlux seem unaware of option 2 as my search for “finlux reviews” returned several pages of 2/5 star ratings for several of their products. As a relatively unknown manufacturer in the UK this is not the best way to engage with your audience.

'finlux review' search results

Whilst higher reviews may exist this information was enough to persuade my grandad to avoid Finlux products. I didn’t need to persuade him though, he had already searched for Finlux and had also decided against purchasing anything.

Moral of the story?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a crucial component of Digital Public Relations. I know I am preaching to the converted on this blog but the moral is integral. The methods of how to monitor and influence SEO is the difference between loss and gain; in terms of money and reputation. Public relations professionals require a wide range of skills which are increasingly becoming more technical. We all must stay ahead of our game.

 

I hope Finlux find this post and note the error of their ways.

My Blogging Promises for 2012

If last year had anything to go by then I have at least another 108 posts to write during 2012. Whilst I am pleased with the performance of mikewhite.co.uk last year, the blog has still not reached “where I would like it to be”. It needs more traffic and higher engagement. Then I realised something crucial…

I’m not giving back to the community
Blogging during 2011 was mostly a case of sitting down for an hour once a day to complete a pre-planned post. I would then publish the article, submit to social feeds and then cross my fingers. I would selfishly wait for people’s opinions whilst ignoring other blogs. This makes for an unhealthy relationship. I must contribute to more blogs.

I’m not broadening my knowledge
2011 was the year when I spent too much time writing and too little time reading. Reading websites is not an excuse for ignoring highly detailed books, magazines or blogs. Reading results in a healthy mind and higher value content. I need to read more.

I’m not being consistent
It is inevitable that some blog posts will be popular than others. Last year a blog post received 4,601 views, whilst another barely scratched 30 views. Each article must be completed to a high quality. Blog posts must also be posted frequently. I must be more consistent.

Therefore these are my three promises for 2012:

  • To contribute to more blogs
  • To read more
  • To be more consistent

 

What are your three blogging promises for 2012?

Dealing with Social Media Crisis Management

Guess what? Social media isn’t new anymore. We all know how to use the tools and I still stand by my blog post from June that social media ‘experts’ are not qualified to do their role. The shift into 2012 will see more organisations seek to have their social media strategies merged into the wider marketing mix. Online communication channels have proved in 2011 to hold the integrity of a brand.

Last August Altimeter Group, a research based advisory firm, released a social business version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Those familiar with Maslow will recognise that there are close interlinks between social psychology and social business needs.

Social Business Hierarchy of Needs

It is in my belief that social media crisis management is not a case of post-examination but instead the culmination of research in order to prepare for potential crisis. Whilst planning will not settle every eventuality it does provide a clear set of communication guidelines to remain calm, organised and quick. Make no mistake – you do not have to sacrifice speed for quality. Whilst “The Social Business Hierarchy of Needs” diagram shows an ideal decisions in the enlightenment stage will be made on real time data to make real time decisions. Just how this will work in practice for an international organisation is questionable (simply due to the complex internal aspects of communication and management).

Infamous instances such as Nestlé’s management of their Facebook presence in 2010 when Greenpeace launched a campaign against the company due to their approach to acquire palm oil at the cost of endangered Orang-utan triggered a series of events PR professionals should not forget.

It proved that there are certain aspects of user generated content which should be taken into consideration:

 

Plan!
Take into consideration (using Altimeter Group’s research) just how to plan for a social media crisis. Maintain a strict guidelines over content control that will clearly feedback into how the crisis will be handled through traditional media channels. This will prove particularly useful in the instance of a coordinated attack (such as Greenpeace’s).

 

Listen
It is so easy to publish content to social media channels but in the event of a crisis take more care with listening to what the public are saying. This will allow you to clearly post narratives which will be relevant and will not cause communication clutter. The narrative must remain simple for it to make sense.

 

Converse
Any messages posted should be in response to the larger public response. Why? As I suggested in a recent blog post it is just not practical to respond individually to each user online. Your communication will remain two-way asymmetrical but you will still be responding to transpiring events.

 

Record
Take into consideration the sentiment of the messages you are receiving, all of this should be recorded for post-examination. With today’s tools data can be recorded in real-time but remember to keep a copy. Mistakes are made, having a record of social media activity will allow you to perfect online crisis management.