Not All Media Coverage is Created Equal

Every client wants media coverage, but sometimes they just want a lot of stories and don’t really care exactly where they appear. I have heard some people say, “The more coverage and back links to the website the better.” However, I really believe not all coverage is created equal.

I work with a lot of consumer product goods and my clients always want coverage from Mom bloggers and online influencers. We usually contact these mom bloggers and offer them free product in exchange for an honest review. Bloggers with bigger followings usually charge a few.

I just got a daily newsletter that had some shocking stories about mom bloggers.

  • One blogger the publication found readily admitted that she was offered trips and high-end products to review, and she jokingly confessed, “My blog doesn’t even get read by more than a dozen a month.”
  • In another case, they analyzed a client’s web traffic for the past five years. They did get coverage in over 1,000 mommy blogs. Only two resulted in actual sales.

200w

Thank you Captain Obvious, that’s exactly how I felt! I have experienced this firsthand. I have sent dozens of products to Mom bloggers just for them to never respond to my follow up emails. There was never a contract written up, just an agreement via email. There is definitely some risk on our side but now you understand a little on why I think not all coverage is created equal.

After some of the mom bloggers I worked with posted their reviews on social media I would see that they only received one or two interactions. I don’t care if you have 10,000 followers, but if you are only getting one engagement per post there is something wrong.

So for me one Buzzfeed (or other big publication) article is equal to about 100 mom bloggers, or more!

The Power of Real Influencers

For the last several months I have been focusing on Instagram influencers.

Just in the month of October my co-worker and I were able to get 49 different links from influencers on Instagram. We didn’t pay them anything, we just sent them some free products.

Example: One influencer posted three recipes last month with one of our client’s products. Those three photos alone had a total of 4,170 likes and 290 comments. Those are just engagement numbers, that doesn’t even count the amount of people that saw the post.

Those numbers were just to further illustrate my point that not every link or story is created equal. The engagement that I got from those free posts was probably more views than all of the mom bloggers views combined that I secured before.

I try to balance my work to make sure that I am focusing on outlets or influencers that are worth while for the client. Make sure you are getting valuable pieces of coverage and not just the scraps.

Line Between PR and Advertising is Blurry

I have been working in Public Relations for just over two years now. In college it was very easy for me to tell the difference between advertising and PR. Advertising is paid and PR is free (earned). The more I continue to work in PR the more I see that is not true.

Here is an example. I mostly see this with magazines, but it can occur anywhere. Some magazines are not be willing to publish editorial content unless my client is advertising with them. I have only been in the game for a couple of years, however my more seasoned colleagues tell me the editorial and advertising departments used to be completely separate. The line is now blurred.

Here is a direct quote from an Editor/Publisher after I pitched a great well-research idea for their magazine. “We usually run editorial in conjunction with our advertising packages.”

Even though the idea was interesting and relevant to the publication it would never see print because my client wasn’t advertising. To an extent I get their dilemma, it’s because print is dying.

Occasionally I will also submit different clients for awards. One Marketing Director told me that my client would have a better chance of winning if they were a regular advertiser. When I heard this for the first time I was shocked. Shouldn’t the product be chosen because it’s a good product? That is not always the case. I have one client that consistently wins an award every year because they are a regular advertiser.

I was also talking with a co-worker that was a former editor of a magazine. He specially mentioned that they wouldn’t run editorial on a product if they stopped advertising, or weren’t advertising a lot. Even though the information was newsworthy enough for the magazine it was not included. AS the publishers they have the discretion to do that, but it was very eye opening.

I don’t run into this every day. I have a lot of success working with social media influencers and other publications that are willing to publish relevant content. I just think it is interesting that the line between PR and advertising is crossing.

This has been my experience, but I am excited to see if this anyone else has had a similar experiences.

Here are a two examples. One more recent and one from a couple of years ago.

My friend showed me this video where Martin Garrix did a concert for deaf people. It was awesome! So, is this advertising or PR?

In my opinion this is PR. My rationale is because the video was made to evoke emotion and to make you think highly of 7UP. Most advertisements are meant to push products and they have that “buy me now” feel. Those aren’t the feelings that I get from this video. I would also have no problem sharing this video on social media but I would definitely not share a 7UP commercial. I don’t even like 7UP.

This is where things get complicated. This video wasn’t free. Martin Garrix was obviously compensated and there were thousands of dollars spent on the concert and video production. Per my definition above, PR is anything that is free, right?

Here is a definition that I came up with for these type of videos.
PR Driven Content: Content that is created in order to evoke emotion, but is not necessarily focused on pushing or selling products. Most of the videos that I have seen like this are funny and relatable to any audience.

Here are two other examples:

Lyft:
Recently Lyft has created a campaign by having celebrities go undercover as Lyft drivers. They are hilarious! It’s a funny video that people would have no problem sharing even if they were a constant Uber user. Their undercover videos have a combined amount of around 16 million views.

By my definition all of these PR-Driven Content videos cost money and were sponsored by a product or service. So what do you guys think, are they advertising or PR?

Reaching Your Audience is Harder Than Ever

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With increased content, advertising and garbage on the internet it is becoming hard and harder not only to reach your audience, but to engage them.

I have noticed over the past few months a number of companies that have amazing followings on Facebook, but have terrible engagement. Why is this happening? How can they have so many fans but such little engagement?

One of the main reasons is Facebook’s new rules, but that’s not the entire problem. Before I address those problem let’s look at two examples of what I mean when I say these companies have low engagement on Facebook.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Let’s start with the most liked Facebook page, Coca-Cola. They have 92,477,063 likes. Their most recent post received around 43,000 likes.

Math time: If Coca-Cola engaged 43,000 fans that is roughly .46% of their entire audience. When you look at that number it doesn’t seem like they are engaging that many fans. Their Christmas day post had 70,000 likes, which is around .76% of their entire audience. Once again, that number doesn’t pop off the page, but compared to other brands that is amazing!

The other companies that I am talking about have around 100,000 fans and only have around 10 to 15 likes for organic posts. Their boosted posts receive around 1,000 to 1,200 likes.

Math time: If they engaged only 10 fans that is .01% of their entire audience. Even if they had 1,000 fans like the post that is only a measly 1%.

Where are the other fans and consumers? Are they not being reached or are they simply not engaging with the content? It’s a little bit of both!

If I was a business owner and I saw those numbers, I would be alarmed. After writing this part of the blog I found an article on Twitter that backs up my math!

There are two reasons for this: Facebook’s algorithm changed and many of those likes aren’t even real people, they are bots or were bought from a farm-click company.

My main point is that it is hard to reach your audience, and Facebook isn’t making it any easier!

Main Changes to Facebook’s Algorithm

Last month’s announce of Facebook’s algorithm change will affect small business more than any other business. The changes will now make it harder for business to reach the fans they have already accrued over the years. So if you have 100,000 fans, it might only organically reach about 1% (1,000) of those fans. In worst cases it won’t even reach 1%.

Businesses will now have to pay to reach the fans who have already liked their page. This is ridiculous, that is why people like Facebook pages, so they can see their posts! Companies have already spent money boosting posts to reach people to obtain likes. Now Facebook is making them pay to reach those fans that they already paid to gain. It’s a scam!

Facebook is making it an advertising game and everyone is going to have to play along or get off. Facebook doesn’t care because they are going to bring in millions regardless. Some business will drop off, but the majority will increase their budget.

Facebook of course is trying to put a positive spin on the change by trying to say that they are “cleaning up” people’s news feeds. Let’s not forget that if a person doesn’t like a brand’s content, they can simply unlike the page. It’s the same thing as unsubscribing from a spammy newsletter that you receive in your inbox. If you don’t like it you can hit the unsubscribe button.

As of January 2015 no promotional posts will be allowed! Facebook defines any of the following as being promotional:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

In a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, Chrisy Bossie built a $100,000-a-year gemstone e-commerce business by sharing information about her products on her company’s Facebook page several times a week.

With the new changes Bossie said in the article that she has already had to double her budget to keep sales the same! This change is going to destroy small businesses. OK that might be an exaggeration, but it’s not going to help.

Likes Don’t Equal Profit

I work at an ad agency in the Public Relations department and I sit very close to the Digital Marketing team and we talk often about this problem.

There is a client who wants to reach a certain amount of likes on their Facebook page and each month they are paying a crazy amount of money to do so. Has engagement increased? No!

Owners are worried about “likes” it as if it were a popularity contest; engagement rates aren’t even on their radar. What is more important?

Remember that all likes are not created equal! Smaller businesses are promoting product to a smaller audience, an audience that could directly purchase a product online. Their engagement is much more important than a Coca-Cola post.

I would not directly click on a Coca-Cola post and buy a Coke online. This may be different for the aforementioned Chrisy Bossie, who may have her audience click on the link and bring them to an online store. I hope you can see how this is going to affect small businesses.

Takeaways

If your company is spending thousands of dollars to increase likes on your page, that doesn’t mean that you will be able to reach them in the future, unless you want to pay…again.

You will no longer be able to post promotional content and if you do the organic reach will be around 0%. This will be effect as of January 2015, but some businesses are already seeing changes.

Do you think that these changes are positive? How will they affect small and large businesses?

#ChevyGuy: Public embarrassment turned unplanned PR Stunt

Public embarrassment turned into great PR for GM after the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals.

After every World Series victory an MVP is chosen and they usually get a car. This is usually not that memorable of an experience unless you are the person receiving the car.

That all changed when Rick Wille, zone manager and liaison between GM and its Kansas City-area dealers made a huge blunder while presenting the car to Madison Bumgarner of the Giants.

If you want to watch the video, here it is!

When the time was turned over to him he was totally shocked. He stumbled and had to look to his notes. He ad-libbed a line that would bring guffaws on social media: “It combines class-winning and leading, you know, technology and stuff, with Wi-Fi powered by OnStar.”

That was the line that made Rick Wille a star on Twitter and he became the Chevy Guy.

According to an ESPN article, #Technologyandstuff was trending on Twitter, as was #ChevyGuy, with many comparing Wilde to the comedian Chris Farley.

“ChevyGuy is the most hilariously awkward person ever,” one person tweeted.

“Chevy really sold me on their new Colorados with that class leading technology and stuff and immediate recalls!!!,” another tweeted, an obvious reference to GM’s safety problems.

Although people were mostly talking about how he messed up they were still talking about the brand. His blunder turned into a great unplanned PR stunt.

If you don’t believe me look at these statistics!

According to a Bloomberg.com article, Chevrolet, the official vehicle of Major League Baseball, has received at least $2.4 million in media exposure from Rikk Wilde’s unconventional presentation, much of it on social media, according to sponsorship evaluation firm Front Row Analytics. That’s six times more than the $392,000 it would have brought in with a more polished performance.

More people have talked about this year’s car presentation than ever before. I don’t care about trucks or Chevy, but I took the time to write a blog post about it!

Chevy even joined in the fun by using the hashtag #technologyandstuff

According to the ESPN article, Michael Albano, the brand’s top spokesman. Said that they saw quickly the ‘technologyandstuff’ tagline kind of take off and start to trend.

chevy

He said when they saw that trending that’s when they realized that they have something there to embrace.

GM should be thanking Chevy Guy for his gaffe. They got so much exposure from this it is not even funny!

Even if jokes are directed at him, Chevy is still in the hashtag and people are talking about GM.

Funny #ChevyGuy tweets:

Rob Stone ‏@RobStoneONFOX 
Disgusted that I am not going out as #ChevyGuy for Halloween.

When the world series mvp trophy was being given really inspired me to buy the Chevy Colorado. Because it has
Love ! We like technology & stuff!

We need to see you somewhere on this week

Are internet Ad Blockers making companies waste advertising dollars?

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I love advertising, don’t get me wrong! I love a good commercial, especially creative commercials!

However, I want to watch ads when I want to watch them. If I want to watch the sports highlights I don’t want to have to watch a 15 to 30 second ad for every single video.

I watch a lot of highlights so I used to watch a lot commercials. Then I downloaded Ad Block Plus for Chrome. It’s amazing!

This begs the question, how many people are using ad blockers? Virtually no one I have talked to knew about Ad Block Plus or ad blockers at all.

At my new job one of the clients decided to run an ad on Pandora. While in the meeting I thought to myself, ‘I would never see that ad, I have an ad blocker’. That’s when the following question dawned on me!

Are Ad Blocks on the internet making companies waste advertising dollars? Should they invest that money in public relations or in other departments?

After thinking about it for a few days I thought that only a small percentage of the population would actually use ad blockers. Then I looked up some statistics and I was shocked!

When you go to download Adblock Plus on Chrome is shows that there are over 10 million users.

I went to Modzilla Add-ons section and they have a staggering amount of users using ad blockers too.

Modzilla ad blocker

That is a lot more people than I thought! Are companies throwing away money on internet advertising?

A recent report from PageFair, a service that websites can use to measure the extent of ad-blocking, sheds some light on just how afflicted those sites are. Based on data from 220 clients, PageFair found an average ad-blocking rate of 22.7%. It estimates that one if its “typical” clients, with a 25% block rate, loses about $500,000 a year due to blockers. Based on data from a small sample of clients, PageFair says ad blocking is growing 43% every year!

Looks like I was just proven wrong! Those numbers are way higher than I thought!

It looks like it is time for companies to invest that money in PR. Of course I am bias, but is PR a better option? I don’t have all the answer, but I do know that consistency is key. So, if you have an advertising budget that is bringing in revenue then don’t mess with it.

If you see that money slipping away with no return, then it is time to take a step back and evaluate where you are spending those advertising dollars!

I am by no means saying that just because of this report that people should stop advertising on the internet. It does however shed some light on growing ad block use. I also show the fact that companies should step back and evaluate.

If the internet ads are being blocked then where do you advertise? Traditional media is slowing down. I would never pay to place an ad in a newspaper or Yellowpages. Unless I was targeting a demographic above 65!

To finish off I would like to close with this point! I usually visit a site and there are a lot of ads on it. I recently tried to enter the site and it would not let me enter in without disabling my ad blocker. Why would they do that? Companies must have been getting mad because people weren’t seeing their ads.

In the last 8 months my ad blocker has blocked 41,784 ads.

Now it’s time to hear from you! Do you use ad blockers? Are companies wasting money?

How effective are New Age PR Stunts?

Public relations is known for doing stunts to get publicity. Traditionally they have relied on journalists and media gatekeepers to publish media for them. They have also had to rely on new stations to pick up their story.

With the New Age PR stunts companies don’t need any of that. No need to contact journalists, gatekeepers or worry about buying costly media space.

Companies have found a new way to hone in on the highly digital age that we live in.

I have been thinking a lot recently about the changes that have been made in public relations just over the last five years. Public relations relied so much on others before, but now when it is done right you can have a successful PR stunt done in-house.

The latest PR stunt recently that drove me to write this blog was done by Ubisoft to promote their new game Watch Dogs.

Before you watch the video let me explain about the game in one sentence. The game Watch Dogs is based in future Chicago and the main character can hack into any system using his cell phone, whether than be shutting off lights or changing traffic lights.

In just over two weeks of the video being put on YouTube it has almost 13 million views. There are some video that have gotten more views in the same time period, but this is still impressive.

I can infer that the producers of the video are pleased with the 12.7 millions views, but want more.

These type of videos have been going on for about the last six months. The first one I remember seeing was the Jeff Gordon Pepsi MAX prank. This video has over 43 million views.

People thought that it was fake so they made another video to prove themselves.

Other notable one to watch if you have time is the Devil Baby prank in New York and the promo PR stunt for the movie Carrie. The Carrie video got 57 millions views.

I watched the behind the scenes video for the Street Hacks video and there were a lot of factors that played into the video. It was very complicated and intricate.

It may have cost a lot of money to make the video, but they didn’t have to pay for any commercials on TV. They didn’t have to pay thousands of dollars for a TV spot, which people could easily miss if they left the room.

By putting the video on YouTube they are able to know exactly how many people viewed the video. They know that the audience and demographic for Internet use is only growing.

They could have made a commercial and then placed the commercial on YouTube and then have people share that, but why use the middle man? Put it straight on YouTube.

I think that these New Age PR stunts are very effective. I am not saying that traditional media is a waste, but a lot of companies are going in this new direction.

The amazing thing is that people are choosing to watch your PR stunt a.k.a “commercial.” If a friend shares the video people are going to be more likely to watch the video themselves. They will also be more likely to share and mention the video to friends.

If their friends mention it to them they are most likely going type in “Watch Dogs Prank” on Goolge or YouTube, driving their traffic and impression through the roof.

If you look on Google trends, people searching for Watch Dogs has gone up exponentially since April.  Check out the picture below.

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I think that they are effective for impressions, whether they impact sales or not is a discussion for another day.

Foursquare Fail, Swarm Sinking

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Recently Foursquare decided to split their check-in app into two separate apps. Foursquare is now turning into a wanna-be Yelp, and Swarm is the new check-in app.

I first found out about this because when I was checking into places on Foursquare where I was the mayor it wasn’t notifying me that I was the mayor anymore.

I tweeted at @4sqsupport and they responded quickly informing me that they were making way for Mayor 2.0.

foursquare support ‏@4sqSupport  May 13

@TaylorBentall Hi there! We’re making way for mayors 2.0! See more here: http://blog.foursquare.com/post/85232472353/mayorships-and-more-how-swarm-is-going-to-make-your …

According to their blog these are the three reasons for them splitting the app:

  1. Points became arbitrary and less reflective of real-world achievement, because a check-in at a concert in Istanbul is really different than one at a dog park in New York (and the thousands of types of check-ins in between).
  2. We created hundreds and hundreds of badges to appeal to different people around the world. Some of you want more, though we hear more often that badges stopped feeling special a long time ago.
  3. Mayors were great when Foursquare was small and you were competing against your friends to rule the neighborhood coffee shop, but as more people signed up, earning a mayor crown became impossible.

When I read the way Swarm would work I wasn’t very happy.

I now have to compete with my friends to become a mayor, oh wait I have 12 friends that use Foursquare. I don’t compete with my friends for mayorship, I compete with the people in town. That’s the whole point of the app.

They also introduced stickers, which are a waste of time. If you want to read all the details check out the blog. I don’t want to copy and paste their whole blog in here. http://bit.ly/1lFXrvX

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I downloaded Swarm and gave it a chance for a week and I finally deleted it yesterday.

I deleted it for three reasons:

1. I check into places where I am the mayor and nothing happened. The whole point of checking in is to feel a sense of accomplishment and I don’t feel that with Swarm. It is just a waste of time now.

2. The app has an auto-location setting and tries to guess where I am. That’s not the point!! I am supposed to tell you where I am, not the other way around. Oh and the location is always on so it kills your battery.

3. It shows everyone’s check-ins, every.single.one. I doesn’t show just their last check-in, so I have to scroll through a bunch of posts to see older ones.

Honestly the app design is really cool. I love the new feature of being able to make plans. I think it is cool.

The reviews on the app story have been overwhelmingly negative. The people gave it a 5 star rating said, “I like it but, [enter problem].”

There are as many 1 star ratings as there are positive.

Here are some 1 star reviews:

Royman0: “I miss some of the game aspects like badges and leveling up… the stickers don’t seem that fun.

Sixonthefloor: “I don’t like having to use two apps to check into one place. Why can’t you just keep it simple and use one app?”

I am sitting here wondering the same thing. I am not going to use Foursquare to check reviews on places. I use Google. They are fighting a battle they aren’t going to win

Salvag98: “I have been using Foursqaure for years, I just can’t figure out why they are inisiting on splitting the app in two.”

It goes on and on. I understand that it is a new app and it might have technical flaws. I am not worried about those. I am worried about why they changed everything. They messed with something good and made it bad.

With all these negative reviews I am wondering what research they did. What audience did they research to think that this would work?All of the 5 star ratings seem to be people that know nothing about the app and haven’t used Foursquare. New users might be happy, but they don’t know what they are missing.

All the negative reviews come from people that have been using Foursquare for years

Funkyman3333: “Ack! This is awful! I’ve used Foursquare for 4-5 years and love it. I cared less about where my friends were. The gamification is gone- no more points, no badges and mayorship is stupid.”

This is the audience that they should have been talking to. The three reasons above for changing it are the exact reasons that people hate Swarm now. Badges, points and mayors. People liked it and now they removed because they think that people don’t like them.

This blows my mind! I told everyone how great Foursquare was, now all I can talk about is how mad I am that they split the app. I will only go back if they change things and even then it is a long shot.

UPDATE: November 7, 2014

I got an email from Foursquare yesterday with his image in it!

I am still not satisfied! I know that they probably took the feedback and did what they could, but it just won’t be the same. They should have done this research beforehand, instead of trying to fix it after. Good PR move with the email by saying that you listened to the consumer.

If they asked me the first time though this wouldn’t have happened! I am still not downloading it, I will never download it again! They are just going to have to live with the fact that they made the biggest mistake by getting greedy and trying to split the app!

4sq