PR Agencies and Social Media: 4 Tips to Power Social Brand Building

The Importance of Social Media for Public Relations

PR professionals today are using social media to either supplement or add to their existing strategies, signaling an evolution in the role of PR over the last few years. Public relations specialists were among the first few to understand the power of social media, making them leaders in the social space. Along with handling website content, more and more PR pros are responsible for their company’s and clients’ social media presence. The gradual shift towards, what industry experts call ‘the social media release’, indicates how the traditional long form press release is changing. According to David McCulloch, director of public relations at Cisco Systems, “The press release of the future will deliver its content in text, video, SMS, microblog and podcast form, to any choice of device, whenever the reader decides, and preferably it will be pre-corroborated and openly rated by multiple trusted sources.”

eMarketer expects PR as well as ad agencies to witness an increase in their social media revenue in 2011. Findings from a joint study by the Transworld Advertising Agency Network and Worldcom Public Relations Group show:

• In 2010, 28% PR firms said that between 15-33% of their revenue came from social media.
• This number has grown by 44% in 2011.
• The study indicates that, when compared to ad agencies, the PR industry is more effective in leveraging social media.

The Road Ahead…
Industry research firm IBIS World has predicted the factors that are likely to fuel the growth of PR firms in the coming years and the expected rate of growth.

• PR firms are expected to grow at an average annualized rate of 5.7% to $12.8 billion from 2010-2015.
• This spurt will be attributed to the increase in demand by companies who want PR firms to handle daily interactions with consumers and the press on their social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
• The recent shift from traditional media to more direct media (social media) will result in PR firms specializing in or launching divisions devoted to blogs, social networking sites, mobile media and podcasts.
• Over four-fifths of PR firms are anticipating an increase in digital and social media work in the future.

Whether it is consulting with clients from the agency point of view or working with an in-house team, PR agencies need to be social media ready. Position² lists a few guidelines that will help your agency survive and stand out in the digital space:

1. Making a Pitch
Social media has given a whole new meaning to the concept of ‘pitching’. While the idea of e-mailing a press release to journalists, editors and bloggers is not completely obsolete, it is easy for the readers to hit the delete button and forget about it. Incorporating social media in your PR strategy will ensure your pitch is heard above the din. In order to effectively use social media in your PR pitch plan, we recommend a few points that can be added to your ‘to do’ list:
o Avoid the Fancy Stuff:

Too much information laced with fancy catch phrases like ‘cutting-edge, mission-critical applications to improve business process, etc’ can put off readers. Keep in simple.

o Getting your Tweets Right:

If you are planning on using Twitter to make a pitch, keep in mind, you have 140 characters to get it right. According to Nicole VanScoten, a public relations specialist at Pyxl, getting your tweets right leads to high response rates than e-mail.

o Don’t Spam them:

Whether its journalists or bloggers, no one likes to receive random tweets or Facebook messages. It would be a good idea to learn about the journalist or blogger before reaching out to them. Read their Twitter profile or personal blog to find out if these are the contacts that need to be targeted and then make your pitch.

o Build a Relationship:

Once you have figured out your contacts list, the next step is easy. Building a relationship with a journalist or editor involves getting on their radar. What you can do is a) check out their Facebook page and comment on the posts you like b) retweet their messages and c) comment on a blog post. This will ensure your presence on their radar, even before you decide to make a pitch.

Here’s an example of a good pitch made by a PR professional to a marketing blogger:

For PR pros, using social media to make a pitch saves time as well as money, besides yielding much higher response rates.

2. Delivering Value to Clients
The last 2-3 years have seen PR agencies don an entirely new role in organizations. A large part of a PR specialist’s job involves educating clients on the benefits of social media. Handling a company’s or a client’s account these days includes everything from building brand loyalty to promoting and monitoring content on various social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). In order to be a successful, we believe a PR firm should deliver value to its clients. Here are a few simple suggestions:

o Creating Content:

PR companies are expected to be experts when it comes to writing. Therefore clients expect your agency to figure out how to turn a boring announcement into interesting content. This could either be a campaign or a company blog. Churning out good content will not only get the required media coverage, but will also help generate leads.

o Identifying the Influencers:

Identifying and developing relationships with the ‘influencers’ in the PR domain is an added advantage. Instead of simply looking for bloggers and journalists who are magically expected to create buzz and drive sales, it will be wiser to:

o Determine who the real influencers in a noisy market place are. This can be done by connecting with reporters, bloggers and journalists who cover the topics that are closer to the market your client is interested in.

o Keep in mind, the size of one’s audience does not always translate into influencer popularity.
o Engaging and Monitoring Conversations:

Social media monitoring and engagement is vital for any PR agency that wants to deliver value to its clients. Brands understand that they not only need a social presence, but are also keen to work with PR agencies to know what is being said about them in the market. By using social media monitoring tools such as Brand Monitor, you can:

o Measure your influencer scores: Social media monitoring tools make it easy to identify journalists and bloggers with high influencer scores.

o Handle Crisis Situations: By keeping a watch on blog conversations, twitter messages and Facebook posts, your agency can help identify signs of trouble. Following this, you could either diffuse the situation yourself, or alert your client asking them to respond as necessary.

o Measure the consumer sentiment for clients’ brand (s) and products (s) and quantify impact.

o Measure the connection between press releases and news coverage with social media activity.

o Assess the effectiveness of your communication strategies.

o Provide you clients with domain expertise based on the data obtained.

o Measure detailed metrics such as popularity, share-of-voice etc.

When videos of rats running around at a Taco Bell outlet in NYC were posted on YouTube, owner Yum Brands saw its stock sink to an all time low, with customers doubting Taco Bell’s hygiene standards. Within hours, duplicates and versions started multiplying. Customers looking for reassuring information from the brand had a hard time finding it. Although Yum Brands’ PR team was not entirely ignorant (the CEO posted an apology on YouTube), monitoring the situation better and engaging with customers in real-time could have averted the PR crisis.

With the public relations industry evolving rapidly, the need to monitor social media channels has never been more important. According to Daryl Willcox, founder of PR industry information firm Daryl Willcox Publishing, listening is a critical part of social media strategy – a proactive process as much as a reactive one. A survey by his company indicates that almost 60% of PR agencies and departments that monitor social media channels spend less than two hours a week doing so. These statistics indicate the growing need for PR companies to monitor social media.

3. Sorting Out your Social Media Toolkit

With so many social media platforms to choose from, how would you know what’s best for you? As professionals in PR domain, it’s not always about putting a PR pitch on Twitter or Facebook; the social media platforms with the most value must be used to connect with a client’s target audience and should function as a meaningful place for brands to connect with journalists, bloggers and consumers. We believe that each social media tool has its own benefits, depending on what your agency wishes to achieve.

o Facebook & LinkedIn:

While Facebook and LinkedIn are almost perfect for establishing and maintaining relationships with media, these tools are slightly more personal than Twitter. It would be wise not to start sending friend requests to every reporter possible. After using Twitter to initiate a friendship with a journalist or a reporter, you can then follow this up by connecting with them on Facebook or LinkedIn.
If you are looking to increase engagement or reinforce your brand’s reputation for value, then Facebook is the place to be. For instance, when the Healthy Choice brand aimed to grow its fan base and increase engagement, the company decided to target its huge Facebook fan base and launched a progressive coupon on the Healthy Choice Facebook Page. This was supported through a variety of PR tactics. Efforts by the brand’s PR team resulted in the Healthy Choice’s Facebook page growing from 6,800 to nearly 60,000 fans. The PR team also distributed over 50,000 buy-one-get-one-free coupons.

o Twitter:

Twitter is a great tool:

o If finding influencers in on your agenda: What you can do is look for influential blogs in your industry, subscribe to them and start following the authors on Twitter.

o For connecting with other independent PR professionals: This will help establish valuable relationships with other PR agencies and professionals. By using Twitter, you can connect with the rapidly growing independent PR community to exchange advice, references, and suggestions in general.

o For Increasing Tweetability: Writing a headline with ‘tweetability’ in mind can influence the number of tweets or retweets your press release registers. This will help get your agencies or client’s name noticed in the social web. While writing a tweetable press headline you must: a) keep it short enough to include a Twitter handle and link b) ensure that the company or product name is in the beginning so that it does not get cut off c) add relevant keywords to make it searchable d) and keep it attention-grabbing enough to generate retweets.
o Blogs:

Blogs can be useful for sharing multimedia content and news that does not always require a press release, but is important enough to pique the interest of the media. Blogs are beneficial:

o If you have a small budget, but want to influence your customers and increase readership.

o For creating a sense of community with your present and future potential clients and customers.

o For providing valuable content to your clients or their customers instead of simply advertising to them.

o For publishing successful case studies; this will also help build your brand.

o For designing campaigns for your clients.
When the BALSAMS Grand Resort Hotel in New Hampshire decided to use social media to stand out in the digital space, the hotel partnered with agency bobdonpaul. The agency’s PR strategy involved selecting one ‘resorter’ from several entries and allowing him to blog and post videos (in addition to other social media activities) about his experiences. The campaign was a success and saw 20% increase in hotel bookings in a month.

4. Measuring ROI
How can you tell if your public relations efforts in social media are working? To determine the success of your PR strategy or programs, we suggest measuring the return on investment (more appropriate in case of PR- return on efforts). The benefits of measuring ROI include:

o Knowing if your efforts are generating the desired results.
o Helping you decide if your current strategy needs to be reworked.
o Bringing about positive changes in popularity and online traffic.
o Helping your client make informed buying decisions.

How to calculate your social media ROI?

o Assess you reach: Evaluating how many Facebook fans or Twitter followers you have. How many ‘likes’ has your Facebook page registered.

o Tracking how many ‘likes’ on your clients’ Facebook page are actually converted to sales.

o Comparing Results Before and After Launching Social media initiatives: Has your newly launched Facebook page or your new twitter account make any difference to your brand’s reputation online?

o Listen, Measure and Engage: Social media monitoring tools like Brand Monitor offer you a platform to listen, measure and engage with customers across the social web.


What gives the modern PR firm the edge over its yesterday’s counterparts is the fact that today’s public relations professionals are more open to syncing social media with their existing strategies. Whether it’s in-house assignments or working for external clients, PR agencies understand that surviving in the digital space is centered on getting their social media strategy right. While mass social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will continue to be important to a certain extent, niche, industry-specific networks are expected to be of greater value in the future.

In the next five years, the most important tools in PR will be monitoring and measurement tools. PR specialists, as well as their clients, will be more concerned with what happens after a message is out there. We expect PR companies to not only dedicate a budget for their social media efforts in the future, but also hire social media specialists to handle their client’s social media activities. The social media world is dynamic; however, the job of the PR person remains the same: generate positive coverage across media to help build brands. It will be interesting to see how PR pros in the years ahead will leverage the power of social media to do what they always have been doing; communicating and connecting.

Future Jobs in Advertising Will Be Dominated by Media – Polish Up Your Media Resume!

Jobs in the advertising industry declined during the recession of 2008-2010, but now appear to be increasing again. Looking at the advertising jobs of the future, we believe media will dominate job growth. Available jobs will involve media planning, buying, and sales for both traditional and new media. Integrated communications will be key.

In terms of job opportunities, there are three basic functions which media professionals perform to connect ad messages with target markets: media planning, buying, and sales. To prepare for an advertising job, job seekers should develop a good understanding of media planning, media buying, and media sales for both traditional and digital media. (The future is integrated marketing and media.)

1. Media Planning

Media planning is the process of developing an effective media strategy and action plan involving use of both traditional and digital media.

The planning process first begins with an analysis of the marketing situation. Then, second, based on marketing priorities, media objectives are formulated that detail exactly what the media plan is supposed to accomplish, for example, including the definition and prioritization of target audiences the media plan must reach.

Third,strategies are formulated which will most effectively accomplish the media objectives. Finally, based on the media strategies, a detailed tactical plan is developed.

The media strategy and action plan incorporate the right media classes, the right media vehicles, the right geographic markets, the right timing, the right budget, the right number of advertising exposures, in the right media contexts, and so on. In so doing, media planning contemplates how traditional, digital, alternative, and marketing services media can help best address marketing problems or capitalize on marketing opportunities.

The end result of the process is a media plan, often called the tactical plan. The media plan details the recommendations and detailed rationale for all media activities and spending. For example, the plan may propose the use of magazines as the important medium for some particular advertising. The recommendation would include how much money should be spent in magazines vs. other media, in which months or weeks ads should be scheduled, and, of course, which specific magazines are most cost effective and best meet the magazine selection criteria.

Of course, media plans must also include other proposed media/marketing activities such as geographic market areas which should receive supplemental media spending, how often the consumer should be reached with advertising, as well as how the advertising should be scheduled throughout the year or planning period.

A media planner is someone who develops or supervises the development of media plans through a rigorous media planning process. The media planner may occupy any level in the organization; responsibility, not title, defines the job.

Now, imagine that you are a media planner. You have $3 million to market your product to male beer drinkers. An analysis of media alternatives for reaching this audience suggests these three potential strategies.

1. If you bought one:30 spot in the Super Bowl for $3 million, you would reach almost 33% of male beer drinkers all at the same time.

2. If you bought fifteen:30 spots on male-oriented, primetime, network TV programs, you could reach 65% of male beer drinkers more than once with 35% of them reached at least twice.

3. If you spent half your budget for display ads on male-oriented websites and the other half in men’s magazines, you would reach 63% of males twice each, on average, but in different media contexts.

Question: Which option would you choose? Why?

2. Media Buying

Media buying is the second type of job available in advertising and the advertising media area. People who buy media are simply called media buyers. Media buyers may be generalists or may specialize in buying specific media: broadcast or print or digital.

After the media plan has been approved by the client, the media included in the plan must be purchased from the media sellers. Buying is the process of identifying the preferred media vehicles, then negotiating with selling media to reach a satisfactory price and other important terms and conditions. The transaction is called a media buy, and the person who negotiated the transaction with the seller is called a media buyer.

Typically included in the list of negotiable items are price, additional time or space units, positioning of the ad or commercial within the media vehicle, inclusion of higher quality and more effective media vehicles, and value added features such as billboards (broadcast), turnkey promotions, merchandising assistance, programs to involve sales force and customers, and so on.

You might be a buyer with a budget and instructions to buy a specific display ad on the home page of a major search engine, for example. You find that the budget is sufficient to buy an ad on the home page of either AOL or Yahoo but not both. You therefore ask each of the sellers to submit a proposal, and you negotiate with both of them until one offers you desirable inventory at an acceptable price. After negotiating with the sellers, you may then select the seller with the lowest price or the best additional enticements. When you have completed the transaction, you have done a media buy!

3. Media Sales

Media sales or selling is the third category of advertising media jobs. All media have sales people who work on the local level selling to local businesses or on the national level selling to national advertisers and advertising agencies. In addition, opportunities exist in media representative firms who often represent media companies in the key markets of the countryt. For example a television station in Hoboken may hire rep firms to do their selling in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Detroit — or where ever.

What is important here is that media sales will likely be the largest employer of people in the advertising industry, and could be considered by those who have interest in advertising, professional selling and has accrued a little bit of experience in the agency business.

If you were the media seller for AOL in the example above, you might propose a media package consisting of X number of clicks to AOL for the one-time-only price of $5 million. But the Yahoo sales rep would be doing the same thing! Your job would be to come up with an offer better than Yahoo’s, including a final price and any other terms and conditions that would induce the media buyer to keep negotiating with you until you can reach a contract.

Media sales persons are usually called media representatives or sales reps. Sales reps may work for the medium (e.g., AOL) or for an independent firm that represents several non-competing media. Sellers communicate with buyers by phone, face-to-face in person or video conference, by mail and e-mail.

Social Media Advantage For Brands

Social media has become mainstream and as someone said: every media becoming social. I always think some brands and their attitudes to social media, content marketing, management. It is clear from every angle, except from view, that most brands are overlooking the “social” in front of the social media. This is what sets social media apart from other kinds of media. To excel in social media, you begin with cultivating a social media mindset. Most have not understood what this platform offers.

All that we are currently doing is majorly titled toward social media abuse which is based on advertising and shameless ego promotion. This affects corporate brands more though.

Most have concentrated mainly on mainstream traditional media. They have neglected or can we say they are unaware that the only way to survive in this time is a two-way communication media which embraces not only the traditional but online media platform. As we know, the current trend today is for brands to first learn about their brides-customers, get their attention through the use of social media platforms like blogging, Youtube, Xing, Facebook, Del.ici.ous, Bookmarking, RSS, Podcasting, videocasting, Wikis among many other available online media.

The evolution of these new media has opened up opportunity to seek opinion, interact, court, date and offers irresistible proposal that will hook the bride. Today customers are no longer buying one mode fits all offer by the traditional media. Some corporate brands here seem to hinge non-participation in online community building on such excuses that we are not yet online, neither are there recognized consumer fora which have major convergence of consumers online. Also no regulatory authority here pays attention to or gives any attention to whatever they have to say can. They also claim that online forums here have no impacts on corporate performance. Some also claim that social media is alien to us. My answer is that social media is not alien. The fact remains that many things had been part of us only that we do not accurately labeled them until the westerners help us out.

The idea of social media, content marketing is rooted in cultural rituals where a couple gets engaged before they could start dating. The process require that suitor’s intention has to be established through family contacts, integrity checked and a cogent promised is made that he is interested in a serous relationship and not flings. Without these background checks, no one officially allows the intending couple to start dating. If this is violated then, the bride to be would be disciplined.

Drawing a parallel in this ancient ritual, the customers want the brand today to show that what matters is her, not money making. The customers want to be sure that out of arrays of suitors-products, services- your brand can take the initiative of starting a conversation, the customer wants to be sure your brand is not just flirting, looking out for short flings but a real relationship that will enhance her lifestyle. Brand through social media, content and social marketing set up a bate by loading the right words in their contents to convince, educate, entertain the bride that they are out to make her life better even before selling anything.

Customer wants to see how much of your intellectual property will be made available without charges. The customer wants to find out you are a giver. One of their love languages is gift sharing. A giver without string attached always takes the show. Social media, content marketing requires a lot of commitment. It takes time before social media and content marketing make huge impact. Any brand that can show high level of commitment in social media will always carry the day.

Typical case studies of brands with efficient use of social media include Tony Hseih. Tony followers in Twitter today is over one forty million. Hseih is the managing Director of Tony through his ‘tweet’ has course to meet with customers at a bar while many in his position will rather hide under the guise of busy schedule. Tony uses Twitter to build interaction with customers; he uses twitter to solve problems for clients. The strength of Tony Hseih and Zappos communities has been used to strengthen relationships with Zappo’s brand offline. Zappos client freely gives their ideas on what they want. This aids, leads to co- creation of brands products, services.

As busy as Richard Branson of Virgin group is, he also maintains a twitter account. He has used his twitter account to answer questions from angry customers as well as virgin potentials. The virgin group also has an integrated website that allows news update, blog among others. Southwest Airlines has used social media to build strong connection that impacts on the brand’s offline interaction

A good example of the use of social media to spread messages and connection was recently demonstrated by Michael Jackson’s personal doctor. As we are all aware, it was once insinuated that he killed Michael Jackson through drug overdose. About a week ago, he used YouTube video to spread his part of the case. This video spread across the internet as well as mainstream media. Popularity of virtual community has been soaring high with more people paying attention from academics and marketing communications practitioner discussing it in advance countries, yet Nigeria brands have assumed ‘I do not care attitude’. Nations and brands are not considered backward just because of their location but based on attitudes, disposition to the use of technology that will aid progress. Building emotional connection, loyalty with the brand is becoming an easy thing through social media.

Social media has become a great platform to identify with, interact, communicate brand element. This often starts in online forum and lead to offline beneficial relationship. Today, nearly three billion of the seven billion potentials are now connected in social media platforms. Agreed the ratio is still slow here but the number is increasing daily. Through social media brands can ignite confidence in the hearts of the bride, build thought leadership. Your brand competitors may have better product, services but will surely lose out to you if you can build strong connection with them before you ask them to buy through massive advertisement.

If your brand can give away enough information, answers to concerns and prove that you are on the verge of seriously neglecting your own best interest, of tight schedules, in order to serve these greedy, needy brides that desire your brands become more open, honest with them which is the essence of social media. Social media do not allow cover ups, unnecessary protection of corporate brand’s failures. I am of the opinion that if our banking industry’s Managing Directors have been active in social media, there is possibility of gaining public sympathy instead of this anger, tantrum they are now receiving from various angles. Their followers would have been able to defend them and take appropriate position that may have given them soft landing in this trying period.

Since our brands have concentrated on one form of media, mainstream, tell me why should their brides not block out their useless bragging through advertising? Tell me why is it difficult for brands n our environment to see handwriting on the wall that their brides now desire their authentic voices that are not coloured with jargons of self- serving moneybags? The brands’ brides are now also afraid; skeptical of marketing. Why should the brides be loyal when the element of trust is shaking?

Having established that let us now examine proper way of participating in social media which is now being exchanged for web.2.0. For brands to actively participate in social media, brands need to observe, listen, find clients’ hibernating medium. In doing this, brand should first define its social media strategy through careful evaluation of brand’s resources, analyze the target audience, and identify objectives. Having done this, brand must carefully pick or access platforms that fit their goals. This will inform the decision to run a blog or just to participate in other forums like Twitter, Facebook, discussion board, social media bookmarking, stumbleupon among others. Be sure you know that such platforms are used by your niche audience. Identify the top influencers of your industry online through recognitions given to their opinions, comments, awards etc.

To do this effectively, brand may consider creating the position of community or social media/knowledge management manager or hire consultant who has track records in skills like community management, online reputation management, monitoring, tracking, podcast, video cast, web links etc. These skills do not require a programmer’s knowledge and in actual fact, they are used by customer relations, brand, and Public relations experts. The only requirement is passion that is backed with proven results. The said manger or consultant must also understands forum rules, reputation software, know how to distribute contents without creating offense as this may be counter productive. Great ability to create qualitative content for blogs, create profiles and claim such blogs in online directories is also essential. Social media, content marketing, management is seen as collection of open-sourced, interactive and user- controlled online application used to expand the experiences, knowledge and market power of the users as participants in business and social processes, the social media landscape is basically about conversation before any marketing campaign.

Brands must therefore consider Rajesh Setty’s suggestion that it must demonstrate that your brand cares, is curious to find out what is the concern of the customers, contribute, make sure the content is worth their attention, clarify issues, build conversation that will lead to strong relationship, bring in a lot of creativity, demonstrate the brand’s character and values cherished, build community, tribe, brings change, instill courage and be highly commitment to a cause its believe in.

Let me conclude this piece by highlighting how brand can start participate in social media and content marketing. Content marketing is an art of understanding what your customers’ want, need to know and the science of delivering it to them in a useful and compelling way. The content has to be engaging in a useful and compelling way. To start, the brand has to build trust and credibility. This is huge work. This becomes easy if your brand can take time to listen to customers first. By that brand discovers their problems and the content is therefore tailored to provide solution.

Avoid talking too much about your brand or your expertise as much as I do know the fact that your brand need to establish the line that your brand is worth their attentions. This can make your brand’s efforts become suspect. Your customers want educational content without initial marketing spin. The content also has to be compelling, entertaining to earn the scarcest entity on the wed- time/patience. Great content must guides, clarifies, enlightened and connect. The language of the content has to be in tune with your industry. Contents that solve problems drive traffic and increases sale rate.

Social media and content marketing make your clients see your brand as unique resource, trusted advisor and a brand that makes them look good. This will make them to gladly exchange their money and loyalties for your commitment to the relationship. When you have so much to give, they will not wait to tell others about your brand. There are some other factors that come into play here but let us conclude today’s piece by saying that brand has several opportunities when it annexes the two way communication of mainstream and evolution of new media.

Media Monitoring – What it Is, What it Does, How to Use It

Media monitoring is the process of carefully reading, watching or listening to the editorial content of media sources (including newspapers, magazines, trade journals, broadcasters and the Internet) on a continuing basis and of identifying, saving and analyzing content that contains specific keywords or topics.

Monitoring the News Media

Monitoring editorial content of news sources including newspapers, magazines, trade journals, TV and radio stations is by far the most common type of media monitoring. This typicalls is called “news monitoring”.

Most companies, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations (e.g. hospitals, universities, associations, etc.) and individuals such as authors and celebrities utilize media monitoring as a tool to identify mentions of their organization, its brands, and executives in news media. Some organizations also deploy media monitoring tools to track the success of their news releases, to find information about competitors and specific issues relevant to the organization, to benchmark performance against competitors, to manage corporate or brand reputation, to gather industry intelligence, to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of corporate communications, to identify new business opportunities, and other purposes.

In addition to monitoring news, many organizations now also monitor social media on the Internet, tracking word of mouth mentions about their organization in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, message boards and forums. This is commonly known as social media monitoring, word-of-mouth monitoring, or buzz monitoring.

Media Monitoring Profile & Search Terms

The monitoring process starts with the search profile and the search terms or keyword(s) or keyword phrases. The search profile contains the service terms: the media to be monitored, the type of articles and/or mentions to be delivered, the time period of the monitoring, and the method of article delivery.

The search terms are those key words or phrases that must appear in the article such as the name of the organization or its affiliates or brands. An article containing a key word is usually referred to as a “clip” or “clipping,” “news clip,” or “press clipping.” The clips are delivered either physically by mail or as a digital file, usually via e-mail.

While some organizations use in-house staff to monitor news and social media, most companies and PR agencies outsource the function to commercial services. The commercial services can usually provide more comprehensive media coverage than in-house staff using online news monitoring tools such as Google News. Commercial media monitoring services often deliver better results at lower cost than the actual labor costs of in-house news monitoring with staff.

Media Monitoring History

Media monitoring started in the 1800s as press clipping services. Press clipping services (called “press cutting” in Europe) employed human readers to scan articles in printed news publications looking for the key words of multiple clients. The readers marked the keywords in articles, then used razor blades to cut out the marked articles, put the clipped articles into client folders and delivered the clips via mail to the client. Most press clipping services served a limited geographic area – one country, for instance – and monitored publications in only one language. According to studies by GE, Kodak and other organizations in the 1970s, the human readers typically missed 30 to 40% of articles containing clients’ key words, largely because the readers were quickly scanning the articles for multiple clients’ keywords, not actually reading the articles word for word.

Broadcast Monitoring Services

In the 1950s, specialized broadcast monitoring companies started to monitor TV news broadcasts for mention of their client company key words. Initially, the broadcast monitoring companies used humans to watch programs, write abstracts of the content and log mentions of clients’ key words. The development of Betamax and VHS videotape recorders, along with closed caption text for hearing impaired, enabled the broadcast monitors to record the programs and use software to search the closed caption text for clients’ key words.

In the United States, that closed caption system is still in use although computers (not videotape recorders) are now used to record the programs. In countries that do not have closed caption text embedded in the TV broadcast signal, broadcast monitoring companies now often use speech to text software to create a character-based document which can be searched for key words. Closed caption text and the latest generation speech to text software are each about 70% to 80% complete and accurate.

Online Media Monitoring

The growth of the Internet and World Wide Web in the 1990s gave rise to online media monitoring services with automated processes to monitor online news. The online services deploy specialized software called robots, bots or spiders running on high-powered computer servers to quickly scan the new editorial content of online news sources and social media and to index all the words in the news content and social media postings. Once the software has compiled the content, it identifies all articles containing each client’s search terms (keywords or phrases) and then automatically clips and delivers those articles or social media postings to the client. Unlike human readers in old-fashioned press clipping services, software seldom misses valid articles because it reads the entire article word for word.

Advantages of Online News Monitoring

The commercial monitoring services offer multiple advantages when compared to old-fashioned print-based press clipping services or in-house media monitoring by staff.

Today, with rare exceptions, every print publication publishes its editorial content on the publication’s Internet Web site. By monitoring print publications on the Internet (World Wide Web), online media monitoring services can monitor news media sources in all countries in virtually all languages. Online news monitoring services currently monitor between 20,000 and 50,000+ online news sources in multiple languages. Many of the online monitoring services utilize embedded translation software to include instant software-based translation of foreign language news clips.

Whereas the old-fashioned press clipping services required 2 to 3 weeks to deliver clips, online media monitoring services deliver clips overnight as a standard service and usually offer near real time delivery at additional cost. Most clips are delivered by e-mail in text or HTML format but other delivery methods are available including RSS feeds, XML and PDF via FTP transfer. The daily e-mail reports enable executives in client organizations to keep up-to-date with a fast and comprehensive overview of how their organization is being portrayed in the news and social media. The daily e-mail clip report also can provide early warning of brewing issues and problems.

With the use of Boolean logic in client queries, online media monitoring services can meet very specific and specialized media clipping requirements with great accuracy. Instead of delivering “all mentions” of a specific word, the media monitoring service can deliver a specific subset of articles and postings such as:

(Orange OR Sprint) AND (mobile OR phone OR cell) AND NOT -fruit OR Julius OR Crush OR “track and field” within 25 characters.

Because online media monitoring services deliver clips as digital computer-based files, clip storage, management and distribution are far more easier than with old-fashioned paper-based clips. Most online services store each client’s clips in a digital online archive that is available at anytime from anywhere by anyone the client authorizes. Using standard database methods, clients can easily organize and manage their clips in the online archive. Most digital archives include keyword search capabilities – that is, clients are able to search their digital clip book for any key word or phrase. Most of the digital archives also make it easy to circulate clips via e-mail to others within the client organization.

Social Media Monitoring

While news is clearly the core content to monitor, most organizations now recognize the growing importance of monitoring social media such as blogs, message boards, forums, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and video sharing sites such as YouTube. What is published or uploaded in these online social media sites has gained significant credence and influence. As a result, monitoring social media for criticism and complaints is now crucial to protect corporate and brand reputation – and to better understand what consumers think about the organization, its brands, and its customer service.

It’s possible, but inefficient, to utilize in-house staff to monitor social media using free online social media search engines. For the most part, however, social media monitoring services are more comprehensive and more time-efficient.

Most news monitoring services offer separate or integrated social media monitoring services. As in news monitoring, the key is comprehensive monitoring across a wide range of social media, especially blogs, message boards, forums, complaint sites and Twitter. With over 50 million blogs worldwide, it is not sufficient to monitor only the so-called “influential” blogs. It’s crucial to monitor as many blogs as possible because it’s impossible to predict where critical information will surface. It’s also important to use key words on a continuing basis to monitor social media. Monitoring social media sources for criticism and complaints can be especially effective as a customer service tool – correcting problems and issues and earning the customers’ gratitude before complaints spread virally.

Media Monitoring Summary

Most commercial media monitoring services are subscription based with a monthly fee for on-going service. While some services – usually ones that evolved from old-fashioned press clipping services – charge an additional fee for each delivered clip, most of the newer online services do not have per clip fees. To better understand the quality of each service and the differences in services, it’s best to use multiple services on a free trial for a few weeks before committing to purchase.

In summary, monitoring news and social media is a vital function to track news release placements, identify other mentions in the media about the organization, manage corporate and brand reputation, monitor competition, stay current on industry issues and other purposes. Commercial media monitoring services, especially online services, offer superior results and lower costs than in-house monitoring by staff.

© Copyright 2010, CyberAlert, Inc.

Article may be reprinted in whole or part with proper attribution.

Delegated Media Regulation Within the Context of Broadcasting in South Africa


This paper discusses the concept of delegated media regulation within the context of broadcasting in South Africa. It briefly discusses the history of media regulation during the apartheid period; the transformation of broadcasting media from an authoritarian government, to a liberalised media, the impact of the transformation with regards to internal media policies; focusing mostly in broadcasting media policy. The paper will then discuss the formation of independent regulatory agencies by government as delegated bodies; to monitor broadcasting media. These include the Independent Broadcasting Act of 1993 (IBA), the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA) and the merger to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA), and the existence of the Media Diversity and Development Agency (MDDA). In discussing these bodies, the paper will look at the role played by these organisations in regulating broadcasting media, and the impact they have in the development and monitoring of broadcasting media.

Brief History

Apartheid affected every single aspect of South Africa, including the media. Laws that regulated the media were tailor-made to restrict freedom of expression and subject the media to the extremes of the apartheid government. Before the rise of democracy, South Africa showed essential features of aristocracy; which consisted of whites, Indians and coloured people nominated to the legislative assembly. The ideology of apartheid brought division among the South African society along racial lines. The divisions in society and domination of the majority by the minority were reflected in policy formulation; which included stipulations that restricted the media (Fourie, 2004: 168). This was evident as the government exercised its powers in the broadcasting media. When the SABC was established in parliament, it was said to be the public broadcaster; but this was not the case. Because of political philosophies related to the political values of the society and those in power at the time, the SABC was the state broadcaster and not a public broadcaster; and as a result was said to be the apartheid state’s most powerful propaganda tool Dennis Jjuuko (2005: 3).

According to Jjuuko “The assumption to political power by the National Party in 1948 meant the Afrikanerisation of the SABC, which was achieved largely through controls of the board.” Jjuuko continues to say that during this time the SABC had to play a “significant role in the politics of the day, with no space to make independent editorial decisions.” This particularly had a negative impact on the importance on the SABC’s internal policies. As a result the SABC was referred to as “his master’s voice”, as it gave the government a platform to articulate the apartheid ideology, to control the people of South Africa; particularly blacks.

In support of this argument, one of the main laws that restricted media freedom was the one that reduced the broadcast/publication of activities of anti-government black groups. Fourie (2004) argues that from the apartheid laws “one can deduce that the public interest was very narrowly defined. (That) Many laws/policies of the apartheid regime only made provision for the interest of the minority and the security for their dominant position.”

Even though freedom of speech was in the constitution, it was not enshrined in the Bill of Rights, thus media freedom was not guaranteed. According to Fourie government/external policies forced the media to operate in a very restrictive legal framework; with more than 100 laws that restricted the conduct of journalists as well as media content. Government had the right to ban publications and to insist on the approval of media content before publication. This made the reporting of misconduct of government officials very difficult; and criticising the state was out of the question.

2. Transformation of broadcasting media
The transition to democracy during the mid 1990s raised questions on how to transform the media as an organ of “racist ideology into a forum of the advancement of national unity and equality” (Ashley Dawson). The transformation of the media incorporated issues of deregulation, liberalisation, diversification, industrialisation, convergence and privatisation. Also to be taken into account were economic issues, social and/ cultural issues, which include nationalism, local languages and cultural diversity; political issues-focusing on freedom of expression and freedom of speech, as well as the control and regulation of the media.

Early 1990, the National Party saw itself being influenced to take a liberal policy route in its broadcasting policies. This was due to the formation of a Task Group which was led by Professor H.C Viljoen, on Broadcasting in South Africa. The findings of the Task Group were not at all in favour of the apartheid government broadcasting policies. The recommendations were of a programming that “would cater for all sections of the general public” (Jjuuko, 2005). In a place of serving government, the SABC was to serve the public. The findings were clearly influenced by a functionalist paradigm and not power as was the case before.

Early 1994, the National Party (NP) and the African National Congress (ANC) agreed for the “SABC not to be used as a tool for political abuse” (Berger, 2004). Pressures rose as media practitioners were threatened by police and political activists, trying by all means to interfere with internal media policies and decisions. Media freedom was then enshrined in the constitution, as the right to information and freedom of speech.

Internal media policy
Internal policy can not be excluded from the external policy framework, for it is always formulated within the parameters of the external framework. This is due to the link between the media, economic and political structure of a country. Fourie (2001:190) states that “Internal media policy formulation takes place within the structure and operation of a medium itself. (And that) Gatekeepers are generally responsible for policy formulation on this level.”

A new political dispensation in South Africa impacted on the internal policy formulation of South Africa’s public broadcaster. There were also changes in the legal framework in the country, as the media could not broadcast nor publish certain information. “The unbanning of political organisations and political leaders in 1990 had an immediate impact on media internal policy” (Fourie). This was due to the fact that the apartheid news policy specified that the SABC would not offer a platform to opposition parties (Fourie, 2001). After 1990, the media experienced a more liberal working environment as the laws that restricted the media were amended; living more room for internal media policy.

As media democracy was in transition, government saw a need to delegate control to independent regulatory bodies to deal with media policy. These independent bodies would perform duties of allocation of frequency spectrum and licensing, the monitoring of broadcasters’ compliance with licence conditions, including content issues and competition, as well as protecting and upholding the editorial and programming independence of all broadcasters. All these changes were inevitably going to have an impact on both the power and importance of internal media policies over government external policies in both print and broadcasting media.

3. Independent regulatory bodies

Fourie argues that “The narrow articulation of the public interest by the previous government was also clearly reflected in telecommunications policy formulation and the implementation of this policy under apartheid.” As in broadcasting and print media, freedom to better services and access to this sector featured strongly in its policy formulation; also the application of universal service as a policy instrument reflected the historical inequalities of the South African society (Fourie, 2001).

The rise to democracy saw South Africa taking cognisance of the international trends; which included the deregulation of the telecommunications and broadcasting, and the phasing out of monopolies. Also technological developments which include convergence between broadcasting and telecommunications impacted on the regulation of both sectors.

The emergence of the first democratic elections in South Africa also lead to the transformation of the SABC as a public broadcaster; thus the formation of the Independent Broadcasting Act (IBA)1993, and the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of 1996. SATRA was established as an independent body to regulate the telecommunications industry. Also as the independent regulator SATRA had to balance the interests of consumers, and the stakeholders in Telkom as well as the market participants. The formation of these two bodies was due to the need to ensure the development of the media in areas of public broadcasting, commercial and community broadcasting, and lastly to guard against internal media policy.

As part of the transformation the IBA called for the Triple Inquiry, which stated that the independence of the media is a central public principle which ensures editorial freedom (Triple Inquiry Report, 1995). In 1995 the government indicated that it “fully recognised and accepted the role of the media to be a critical commentator on government activity in the country” and that “the media should be beyond the control of government” (Johnson, 1996: 297, sited in Steyn).

The IBA was subsequently merged with SATRA in 2000 to form the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). The merger was to ensure effective and seamless regulation of the telecommunications and the broadcasting sectors as well as to accommodate the convergence of technologies. Through the formation of this independent regulatory body, it was then decided that editorial independence together with internal media policies were of outmost importance; that the broadcaster (using the SABC as an example) should safeguard its editorial independence to ensure its credibility as a national source of reliable and regular information.

As the democracy years rolled over, successive ministers of communication attempted to claw back some of the forfeited control over electronic communications, and correspondingly reduce some of the independence for the players involved. This trend has also been in broadcasting. “Government has felt that SABC has been law unto itself in deciding how to deliver on, and be accountable for, its legally enshrined mandate” (Berger, 2005). This is what led to the introduction of editorial policies in the SABC, which was initiated by the Broadcasting Amendment Bill of 2002. In embracing the importance of these internal media policies; parliament declared the independent regulator ICASA; which works at arms length from the government to approve them.

ICASA derives its mandate from ICASA Act of 2000, the Independent Broadcasting Act of 1993, Broadcasting act of 1999, and Telecommunications Authority Act of 1996. ICASA’s mandate includes the regulation of broadcasting in the public interest, and to perform adjudication functions. As part of delegated media regulation, ICASA works hand-in-hand with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa. The BCCSA was set up by National Association of broadcaster of Southern Africa in 1993 to adjudicate and mediate complaints against broadcasters/broadcasting licence holders.

ICASA also ensures fairness and diversity of views broadly representing South African society. One of its objectives is to ensure that in the provision of broadcasting services, the needs to language, cultural and religious groups, and the need of educational programmes, are taken into consideration (ICASA Position Paper 2000). It also promotes and encourages ownership and control of telecommunications and broadcasting services from historically disadvantaged groups. Again ICASA works with the Media Diversity and Development. Agency which also ensures the empowerment of previously disadvantaged groups.

3.2 The Media Diversity and Development Agency
After the 1994 democratic elections, the media in South Africa was still not reflective of the country’s diversity. The legacy of apartheid still played itself in various spheres of society, including the media, where the nature of the public discourse was shaped by patterns of ownership and control, such that the poor and disadvantage remained marginalised. The White Paper on Broadcasting Policy, 1998 concluded that, “Society benefits from free, independent, and pluralistic media.” It was then decided that a supportive policy environment was required; and in achieving this Government committed itself to corrective action.

This was due to the need to rectify the wrongs inflicted by apartheid in media development and diversity. Government took an initiative to set up an independent agency that will address problems of the media development and diversity in the country and provide assistance through loans and subsidies to the marginalised groups (MDDA position paper, November 2000). The MDDA’s mandate is to promote diversity and development in print, broadcasting and new media. It works with bodies dealing with Telecommunications, licensing and film. Also develops policies that are informed by ongoing research and evaluation.

4. Conclusion
It is of common knowledge that freedom of expression is one of the hallmarks of democracy; which requires a media that is free from state control. Before the democratisation of South Africa, the South African government was empowered to control the media, to limit free speech as it pleased. During this time newspapers were closed down, and anything that seemed to be giving voice to the voiceless, being a novel or a film, it was banned. Press freedom was at this time described as having “its left leg in plaster, its right arm in a sling a patch over the left eye, deafness in the right ear, a sprained ankle and a number of teeth knocked out” (Joel Merwis, 1979, in Berger 2004).

In redressing the historic imbalances caused by the apartheid policies, government saw it necessary to free the airwaves by delegating media regulation to independent bodies. This was and still is a way of ensuring democracy in the media sector. The telecommunications Green paper stipulates that, “telecoms is an important means of building democracy by giving citizens access to the information and telecommunications services that enable them to participate effectively in the decision-making process of society,” thus the formation of SATRA to guard against government interference.

ICASA and the MDDA also work hand-in-hand to ensure that “the central public interest principle in broadcasting is that of universal access, that there is a diverse range of language, religious, and cultural programming,” (MDDA, 2005). One can conclude and say the independent regulators are working towards harmonising dysfunctions; which can include opportunities for small media companies, challenges or problems around media policies to improve the functioning of broadcasting media as a whole.

Proto-Virtual Reality and Social Media

Embodied in statements like “let’s take a break”, “perspective psychology”, and “a government of citizens” is a complexity which often escapes popular media. Yet as media develops with the convergence of social media and technology conglomerates which harvest the new-found knowledge of brain functions, genetic dispositions, and artistic preferences amongst other things equally related, there is also a new-found tendency to elaborate social media capacities to encompass something which is more cognitive, which has direction, or even a form of psychological function. By all meanings of the terms, these are not senses that are merely blasé.

The opportunity for the newfound convergence between chemical reality and technological reality, now in its infancy, but now also at a meaningful stage which I call the Visual Horizon or Informational Event-Horizon, is presently that of visual and other media—known sciences such as statistics and mathematics—which are nonetheless authentically integrated with aspects of the human mind. These integrations or ‘impertures’ (a word I define as ‘implicit aperture or meaningful indentation’) have a potential for magic, not just because media offers what is commonly called ‘media-magic’ but because of the aforementioned convergence between the realms of media or media-chemistry—qua psychology—and brain science.

What I would like to do is open the door for psychological media, not as ardent film-making, or even cultivating media databases, or working on media-processing applications, but instead, the specifically magical application of highly specific usages of context for the sake of perspectival advantages. Furthermore, I will not leave it to your imagination to determine what I mean by magical media, perspective psychology, citizen-as-government, or taking a break. Instead these terms will be re-interpreted to connote something more meaningful for the media. More meaningful re-iteratively, upon their own context of perspective psychology, citizen-as-government, taking a break, or magical media.

First, consider open-endedness. To some extent it has been over-used. The media, by-and-large (I’m thinking of commercials during the SuperBowl) relies on a closed network of assumptions about what the consumer sees, hears, and interprets. This closed set of assumptions is a function of the open-endedness for the consumer. If it were not open-ended, if the consumer could not be by turns an Atheist, a bulemic, or the President, their specific approach to the SuperBowl would not have the same appeal. Clearly there are other options, but it is hard to reach for them. In the case of the expression ‘taking a break’ the SuperBowl offers one option, while determining a large fixed set of dimensions offers another alternative.

For example, in the context of complex media, what if ‘taking a break’ is a user-defined ‘location’? This offers the possibility of stretching the psychological imagination about what it linguistically means (and ultimately what it means to the consumer). Furthermore, what may be added to a concept of location is that it does not have to involve physically re-locating someone. It could be a change of information, visuals, or even chemistry. Additionally, these categories which replace location are interchangeable and inter-penetrating. If chemistry is a function of visuals, visuals can be used to cheaply simulate chemical location. These chemical locations then map not only to biological, genetic, and personality-testing quadrants of information, they also map to specific types of media.

Now let’s look at another example. “A government of citizens” can be translated several ways, such as “population”, “centralization”, and “government-as-citizen” and “citizen-as-government”. However, what does this say about media? This is not always obvious. But recently, social media has stepped in to provide a metaphor for social responsibility and public or citizen-consciousness. Clearly then, in this case there are three agents: [1] citizen, [2] technology, and [3] government. The interesting factor is that citizen might signify technology by offering specific applications which are a function of his or her own brain, and perhaps in that context he or she is the rightful authority over a specified area of intellectual property. This is like citizen-as-self-government. Furthermore, the corporatization of media institutes a kind of centralized government in highly mobile products, which may not even exist in the same country in which they were produced.

Interpreting from what I take to be the relatively dry context that I have described so far, the citizen-application-government paradigm can be extended further in the context of social media, when the media is a function of neurology, image parsing, and personality. I don’t mean a government role for media as much as I mean a vast relativism about what it means to be a media citizen. Clearly media not only alienates dysfunctions, but integrates functions, Thus there is an opportunity for government, media, and personal images to integrate in terms that are parsable by a computer. This in turn means more systemization in the standard and extended significance of images and other forms of media, not only to integrate within the context of media productions, but also to integrate in the context of computer functions. Beyond that, there is a recursive capacity to re-integrate ‘media-functions’ into functional concepts of citizen and government, presumably as agents-within-the-media.

The last term I mentioned initially was perspective psychology. Clearly the aperture here is through a convergence between variety-as-spice and the scientific advances which promote media and systems functionality. By turning this insight into a circle with ‘media-functions’ and ‘user-defined locations’ there is an implication that science itself is one of the standard apertures of media. There is also the implication that disciplines such as science will be open to a lot of user-generated content, along the lines of social media. There is an opportunity for the use of mass psychology combined with computerized interpretation to yield functional results.

Or, ignoring science for the moment, there is a direct potential between ‘media-function’ and concepts of psychology. Perhaps branding is not what I mean. Perhaps there is a different concept than branding which would serve a function for social media. For example, consider relativized brands. There have been signs of additional user-defined branding of personal products, particularly at that advent when users define entire systems for themselves (say, aesthetically, or etc.). These systems which the users define connote in their best form, actual authorities on media. Therefore, a number of conclusions follow: [1] Media will have localities of psychology, which are effectively user-defined. If users do not find they can own these locations, they will find a way to delegate the responsibility on someone else, including individuals, governments, or corporations. This is a real social psychology moment. [2] Emotions, under the authority of psychology, will largely define the nature of location, and hence information. Consequently [3] Systems will be a function of chemistry, and relatedly [4] Society will depend upon a meaningful science of media.

Here I have defined a number of distinct areas which may affect the future of media. These implications are metaphysical, but strangely localized. They are scientific, but highly personal. They are technical, but they implicate the world. Surely the future of media will benefit by considering this sort of tractatus that I have discussed, orienting the media towards those specific problems which affect the integration of mind, matter, and politics. It is these areas upon which the future of social media impinges.

Media Conference Minutiae – The Art of Delivering an Effective Media Conference

You have a spectacular event organized that everybody in the world will want to attend as soon as they hear about it. The media are clambering to get an exclusive interview with you. Your event rockets you to unimaginable levels of fame and fortune. It could happen!… maybe… well probably not… but it is possible to work with the media and have a successful media conference.

Media conferences are an excellent way to get the word out about your event or cause, perhaps to boost ticket sales. Probably the best advice to meeting planner types who like to control every little detail… you can’t control the media. You can only work with them and hope for the best!

Gone are the days that local media are actively looking for human interest stories in and around their communities. Or so it would seem. All too often we see syndicated articles of drivel, originating from elsewhere in the continent, taking up valuable space in our local newspapers. Local journalists struggle to eke out a living within the confines of their employing editor’s supervision.

News isn’t something that is new anymore. It can be entertaining, tragic, pseudo educating and attempt to manipulate you in a direction that you hadn’t considered moving before. It can be blatantly self-promoting or oppositional to something they don’t believe in and don’t want you to believe in either. They being the editorial department of a media outlet who follow their directions from the owners and they in turn from… who, us the viewer/reader? Not likely! More likely their sponsors who pay big bucks to get their message spread via their favorite form of media.

So if any of this rant is true, why would we possibly want to rely on a news conference to spread our word? We don’t necessarily want to rely on them but we do want to take advantage of what they can offer, if they do what they are good at.

As in any event planning scenario, the bulk of the activity takes place before in preparation for the media conference. Here are some practical tips to consider as part of your planning process.


  1. Be honest with yourself, is your event truly news worthy? When we put a lot of hours and the proverbial blood, sweat and tears into organizing an event, it’s easy to lose site of what is truly important and what isn’t. Journalists are looking for something different. The better your cause, the better the chance they can create a memorable and effective piece on your behalf.
  2. Media relations… is not advertising! You are not paying the journalist to create publicity for you.
  3. You need to decide in advance what the “take away” is for the journalist and what do you hope will be done with it?

Helpful Tips:

Before the media conference:

  1. If you are a frequent event organizer or at least see a few more in your future, it is worthwhile developing a “Media List.” Start off by developing a list with the headings of local newspapers, radio, television, local on-line news websites and locally produced magazines and circulations.
  2. Next step is to flesh out your list. Which of the above media have featured similar publications to yours? Using a newspaper as an example and your event relates to seniors or business, does it have a regular Senior’s section or a Business one? Targeting a media outlet that doesn’t cater to your topic is a waste of both your time and theirs.
  3. If they do have a particular person assigned to the “beat” that you are trying to market to, who are they and how can you contact them?
  4. Create and distribute a media advisory bulletin outlining the details that you want the media to be aware of about your event. This is their invite to the birthday party. It gives them enough information to foster a curiosity about the event but not enough that they could pass on your conference and write about it by proxy i.e. without having to show up.
  5. Create a media kit to be distributed to each media contact on the day of the event. The media kit should contain the details of your announcement i.e. your media release. Providing additional background information such as who they can contact for further info, your website address and your organization’s purpose for existing. Basically, spoon feed them with any details that they would likely go searching for in order to complete their article. Make it easy for them!
  6. Cross promote! Take advantage of your social media venues. Local Facebook and LinkedIn groups are excellent places to promote your upcoming media conference and your cause in general. You can post in your own groups as well as others.
  7. Choose a location for your media event that is conducive to being seen and heard. A recent media event that I attended at my local City Hall’s front street entrance was marred by an enthusiastic City worker who chose the exact moment of the main presenter’s opening comments to use a gas-powered leaf-blower to clean the sidewalk off a mere few feet away from the event. I intervened and encouraged the worker to take a well-deserved unscheduled coffee break.
  8. If you will be holding your media conference in an area that may challenge you being heard by your audience, give careful thought to securing a public address system i.e. microphone and speakers. Outside locations with nearby traffic can take away from your event’s effectiveness if you haven’t made yourself hearable. The amplified sound from the speakers will assist any video recording that you do on your own behalf. The extra expense of renting the sound equipment will be well worth the expense.

At the Media Conference:

  1. Your professionalism is on display so you should be on your best behaviour. It is best to develop a plan in advance and work the plan on the day of your event. Yes, your media conference is an event in its own right. Your plan should include who will be making the “official” announcement.
  2. While you as the official announcer are readying the lectern/podium for the announcement, you should have others to distribute the media kits and be generally schmoozing.
  3. If at all possible, have other members of your organization attend the event. Have you ever noticed that many politicians when holding a media conference surround themselves with happy, smiling supporters?
  4. If you are planning on sharing the limelight with other presenters, ensure that they have the speaking and presenting skills to add to your message, not take away from it. Work with them in advance of the event to fine-tune their content so that it reinforces your message. Personal testimonials can be an excellent way to add credence to your message.
  5. Think “sound bites.” If there is any value to your cause, the media will likely want to capture the essence of what your media conference is about, condensed to a few second sound bite. Plan ahead for potential questions that the media may pose. Prepare short and to the point answers. Fight the urge to go on and on about the topic. You may be excited about the topic and have lots to say but you are working on a timer. The media’s… not yours.
  6. Have your own photographer taking pictures and video so that you can use the content for marketing purposes without having to receive permission from the media outlets. You can always link to the on-line version of their media release on your website.

After the Media Conference:

  1. Upon completion of your media event and hopefully the coverage that you are seeking, send a thank-you message to those that participated and worked on your behalf.
  2. Undertake an event review when the event is completed. What worked? What didn’t? Make note of what you discover to improve the effectiveness of your next event.
  3. Don’t be surprised when watching your local news telecast that your story has been pre-empted by a story of a cat being rescued from a tree by the local fire department. You can’t control the media. You can only work with them and hope for the best! Hey, that sounds like a sound bite…

Generating Publicity For Your Business – Knowing Your “Media Market” Is Critical

When starting a successful business venture or launching a new product, most entrepreneurs or business owners conduct some type of marketing research to determine the extent of their prospective customer base. And when getting the word out to that customer base, many entrepreneurs may turn to the media to help generate a buzz for them. However, as detailed as their marketing research might have been, very few business owners are as meticulous at determining their proper “media market” – that is, all those media outlets whose editorial profiles are a match to a product/business profile and would be appropriate for generating media exposure and publicity.

One of my favorite things to do is educate my clients about their “media market.” Consider this, in North America there are more than 75,000 media outlets and almost one million reporters, editors & producers in the entire media market. However, only a small percentage of those may be appropriate and applicable to your business/product. But which ones? Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned entrepreneurs are either uninformed or misinformed regarding what it takes to attract media attention for their business. I recently surveyed 100 business owners and entrepreneurs who contacted my business about a publicity/media exposure campaign. Here’s what I found:

  • 11% – “Are Admittedly Media Market Clueless”
  • 19% – “Have Unrealistic Media Market Perceptions”
  • 29% – “Think Local & Large Media Are The ONLY Media”
  • 41% – “Have A Good Grasp On Their Potential Media Market And Its Benefits”

Here are the descriptions of these categories and the lessons I try to teach those who fall into each category:

11% – “Are Admittedly Media Market Clueless”

These are the business owners who know their product and market inside and out, BUT they have never thought about launching a publicity/media exposure campaign before now. They know very little about their potential media market or how to generate publicity therein.

The Lesson: For these types of business owners I recommend asking for help from a smaller PR agency or publicity specialist who is willing to “hand hold” to get the client educated. Research to find one who doesn’t mind spending the time to educate you about what should be included in your specific media market and the pitch. Make sure the agency or publicist understands the product/business as well as you do and can in turn educate you about your media market – one that will be able to benefit your business for years to come.

19% – “Have Unrealistic Media Perceptions”

These are the business owners who are CONVINCED that EVERY newspaper, consumer interest magazine and TV show will run a feature on their new products when they launch a publicity campaign.

The Lesson: No product or business, no matter how big or great can be assured media coverage in every outlet in a media market. But you can get coverage in a good number of them given the right media tending. Every media pitch will be weighed against the media outlet’s editorial lead-time, its available editorial space, and availability of an editorial staff member to cover your pitch. It is totally up to the discretion of each media outlet as to whether your pitch makes it to the pages or on air. It can be an uphill battle if you target the wrong media with the wrong message. But you can greatly increase the chances generating those media placements with a little expertise and media market know-how.

29% – “Think Local & Large Media Are The ONLY Media”

These are the ones who think of their media market in two simple terms: LOCAL & LARGE

LOCAL, as you might imagine, means the media outlets in their city or surrounding geographic region — the local newspaper, a regional business magazine or two, a few shows at local radio/TV stations. LARGE, on the other hand, are media outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Good Morning America, Oprah or your other favorite large circulation, trade specific media outlet.

The Lesson: The reality is local and large are indeed part of your media market, but not the only ones. The best media market opportunities may well be the dozens of other smaller scale papers, magazines, newsletters or TV/radio/cable shows that may generate more customer interest and sales than a placement in the big media might. Because of a lack of media market knowledge, many business owners don’t even know these smaller, more targeted media outlets exist. This is where a PR agency or publicity specialist can be integral in your publicity campaign. They know the media market very well and will be able to find those media members who will be the best for generating editorial features on your business or product. They also have great media contacts that can turn one feature into a syndicated story that runs in multiple media outlets nationwide.

41% – “Have A Good Grasp On Their Potential Media Market And Its Benefits”

These are media-savvy entrepreneurs and business owners who are realistic and knowledgeable about how the media can benefit their business. They know that they have to narrowcast their media pitch to a select segment of the media in order to get coverage that will increase exposure for the business.

The Lesson: Don’t let a PR agency or publicity specialist tell you they will send your pitch to 20,000, 30,000 or 50,000 media outlets. The reality is, of the 8,000 daily & weekly newspapers, 11,000 magazines & newsletters, 15,000 radio/TV/cable stations and 7,000 Internet news sites in North America, only about 25% of those accept press releases from outside their geographic area. They cover only LOCAL issues, businesses and products, and it is a waste of time to target them. The key is researching to discover which media outlets will be receptive to your pitch and knowing how to parlay those media contacts into positive consumer interest features that will educate and entice customers about your product or business.

Just like marketing to find the right customers, one should be equally diligent about finding and pitching the right media market. Bottom line – whether you have a general interest product that has widespread consumer appeal or a trade specific business with a very narrow customer base, knowing your appropriate media market can mean the difference between product/business publicity or product/business obscurity.

Hiring a Social Media Manager: 21 Questions to Ask

The Social Media Manager is becoming the go-to person for businesses who require assistance with their online marketing efforts. It’s no secret the impact social marketing can have on a business and the advantages its brings. And it’s also no secret that most business owners cannot handle their social marketing all on their own.

A Social Media Manager does a whole lot more than just posting status updates on profiles. Social media management encompasses figuring out the who, the what, the when and why. Who does your business want to reach? What is needed to reach them? Where are they most active? Why should we use social media as part of our marketing efforts? Many businesses are finding that outsourcing or hiring someone to manage their campaigns is becoming an important part of using social media for marketing. An outside individual can usually see the bigger picture more clearly.

Social media management is a position that has attracted a huge amount of attention and membership in recent years. I see the main reasons for its popularity as:

– Low entry barriers

– A high demand for the services

– Big rewards

But is it really for everyone? Honestly, there are now a lot of social media managers. Some very, very good. Some really, really bad. So how do you filter out the bad ones and find the good ones? Well, the good social media managers will know their stuff and they understand what it takes to be successful.

Here are 21 questions you can ask your potential social media manager and what the better answers should look like…

1. How do you define success?

The amount of followers isn’t the only sign of success in social marketing. A social media manager should be able to help you define success on a strategic and tactical level, in order to support your larger marketing goals. If a social media manager has a limited view of success, or is unable to explain performance measurement beyond the volume of audiences, they won’t be able to provide you with higher level strategic solutions.

2. What sort of results can we expect?

A good social media manager will manage your expectations and let you know what results you could achieve. Remember that social media managers are not psychics. They should act on your behalf using the best practices of the industry, but there is a lot that is out of their control. They should be able to give you a rough idea of what they bring to the table based on their previous results and experiences. If a social media manager cannot communicate this effectively to you, then they probably don’t have the level of experience you need.

3. How is ROI defined in social marketing?

Contrary to popular thinking, ROI can always be measured in social marketing. But it can be perceptual. What are your goals? Were they achieved? If so, then you had a positive ROI. Did your campaigns help your business in any way or have any positive effects? If they did, then you were successful. Social marketing ROI is not always tied to tangible business benefits. Ask the social media manager which factors can be measured and how they will be reported to demonstrate the value they bring to your business.

4. What social platforms do you specialise in? Why would these particular platforms be right for our business?

Different social networks have different audiences and practices. Not every network is right for every business or industry. For example, how could a pharmaceutical company possibly engage in drug marketing on Twitter? The reality is that most businesses can take advantage of the networks out there in some way, but if there are limitations, you want your social media manager to be aware of them.

5. Should we be on every social platform?

A social media manager who has done their research on your business should know your target audience. How this is answered is the key because it provides you with an instant understanding of their perceptions of your business. If a social media manager extends your business visibility to many networks, then your marketing efforts may spread too thin and mean some of the campaigns might suffer. They should pick where your target audience is already situated and focus on maximising performance on those platforms.

6. Would Google+ be worth using for our business?

This should highlight the extent of your potential social media managers Google+ knowledge. Google indexes Google+ content faster than content posted anywhere else. It’s a platform that has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011 and is now one of the main social platforms. A social media manager should know this and should understand whether your target audience is present there, thus viable for your business, and how Google+ can be leveraged to fulfill your wider marketing objectives.

7. Could you give us an example of a limitation on a social platform that you have experienced? How did you overcome this?

A social media manager should know that social networks come with limitations; API calls, bandwidth limitations, character limits etc… If a social manager has never run into limitations and hasn’t experienced how to overcome them, then this likely means that they are not very experienced. In fact, they will probably be completely new to the social landscape. Asking how they overcome any hurdles with their past or current clients will give you a good indication of how they respond to adversity.

8. Can we run a “Like and Share to Win” style contest on our Facebook page?

If a social media manager does not know the answer to this, then move on. Its imperative you find someone who knows the rules and guidelines of each and every social platform and who will not have your business in violation of any Terms of Service. As a heads up, on Facebook you have to use a third-party app to host the contest and cannot use the ‘Share’ button, ‘Like’ button or require a comment in order to be entered to win.

9. Have you ever had to handle a social marketing crisis? If so, could you provide an example?

Asking a social media manager to define what that ‘crisis’ means to them can highlight their level of experience. If their biggest crisis consists of miss-typing a URL on a Pinterest pin and not noticing until their client asks why there’s so many messages about broken links, then chances are they are vastly inexperienced. It’s also insightful to ask what steps they took to resolve the crisis and how the situation was handled.

10. Could you show us some of the clients or projects you are currently working with?

Any reputable social media manager will show you their client accounts. And be proud to do so. Some profiles will probably be doing better than others depending on each campaigns goals and strategies. If they dodge the question or cannot show you anything, then it should rightfully lead you to think they are hiding something. Social media managers who take pride in doing quality work should want to show you their portfolio. Imagine turning up to a sales pitch without a product sample. Clients would never even think about placing an order unless they can see what they are buying.

11. How would you allocate our social marketing advertising budget?

A social media manager should be able to describe a plan for how best to allocate your advertising budget and how they would know if it’s successful. Specific metrics and KPIs should be given, analysed and reported. The choice of advertising platform will also allow you to gauge their perception of where they think your business should be promoted, in what format and to what audiences.

12. What will our responsibilities be as a client?

A social media manager doesn’t operate in a vacuum. They will need to be in the loop with your other marketing activities. You’ll also need to provide any necessary resources and wider marketing information or materials. A social media manager should have clear guidelines for their role, and yours as a client. This should typically be communicated to you prior to establishing a working relationship.

13. What are our competitors doing in social marketing?

Any social media manager who values your work opportunity will do initial research before sitting down with you. If they doesn’t know what your competitors are doing, it should raise alarm bells. A social media manager should be able to give you insight into the way your competitors are using the major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube right from the offset. This can always be researched fully later, but will give you an idea into their proactiveness and organisation.

14. How do you evaluate new social platforms? How do you stay on top of the latest updates and innovations in Social Marketing?

The social landscape is always changing. Even the most experienced social media managers need to refine their skills, update their strategies and practice new techniques. A social media manager should have experience with building engagement and showing results across multiple platforms and with several different tools. There are some platforms considered to be the juggernauts right now, but remember the days of AOL, MySpace and eBay? Would you hire a social media manager who pitched engaging your I.T customers on MySpace? I doubt it. The point is that the social landscape is dynamic and a social media manager should be constantly evaluating new platforms and making recommendations to you on whether they are suitable for you to explore.

15. Do you offer community management in your Social Marketing services?

Social engagement doesn’t end when you publish your Facebook page. In fact, creating profiles is often the ‘easiest’ part of the process. The execution of the community management strategies that follows is the more difficult (and more expensive) element. It is important to know how your social media manager approaches community management and what strategies and tactics they will use to interact with your audiences. If you don’t know this, then you will have no clue on how they will manage your brand online. You should have guidance and offer feedback into how your business is positioned and wants to be perceived online.

16. Do you have your own blog? Do you currently write content for various Social platforms?

Social media managers should practice what they preach. You can ask to see their blog in action and see if they are posting regularly. Being a social media manager is about so much more than updating Facebook and Twitter. Content should be balanced, otherwise your social streams will either be giant advertisements or lists of interesting articles that they came across. A good social media manager will be able to write effectively, allowing you to have a constant stream of interesting and engaging articles. They will also be SEO savvy and content will be optimised to have the right keywords in the right place, ultimately linking back to your business. You can ask to see what articles they have already written so you can determine whether or not their style of writing would fit your business.

17. What blogs or social sites do you regularly read?

Social marketing is always evolving and effectively marketing on social platforms can be a bit like trying to hit a moving target. Google+, for example, had become a commonly used tool for 40% of marketers within only a year of launch. That is a huge gain in such a small space of time. This is just how social marketing works. New blogs and social sites come and go within the blink of an eye. A good social media manager should stay on top of these changes, which means a lot of reading. They should be able to list multiple reputable social sites and explain why it is they follow them.

18. What is your understanding of Edgerank?

Social media managers that know their trade will be able to explain about Edgerank to you. Edgerank is basically what runs Facebook posts. Without knowledge of this, they will have little insights into how to properly optimise Facebook campaigns. Edgerank determines who sees what, when they see it and how often it’s seen. It also provides a good picture into their technical knowledge and understanding of social marketing.

19. What do you think is the most important thing a Social Media Manager should be doing?

A solid answer you should look for would be something along the lines of ‘monitoring’ and/or ‘listening’ to your audiences within your social domains. It’s quite an ambiguous question, but the answers will provide insight into their general thinking about managing your social campaigns. The key word many fail to incorporate is social. If answers are not somewhat geared towards a social dynamic, then they have missed the point completely.

20. Could you tell us a story?

These type of answers are commonly used in interview processes to see how someone reacts to a random question. In this instance, it’s actually a well-thought out question for two reasons. Firstly, if a social media manager has the ability to tell a compelling story, that will give you a huge advantage in all levels of your social marketing activities. Secondly, it puts them under pressure and you are able to gauge how they handle something unexpected.

21. Why should we hire you?

I honestly don’t like this question but I think it is fair to ask a social media manager this directly before hiring in order to see how they can sell themselves. This could have strong implications if your campaigns are tuned towards sales and lead generation. A social media manager should demonstrate how valuable they can be to you and what makes them different or valuable in your situation.

There are definitely more questions that could be asked. Some will no doubt be specific to your business or industry. Hopefully, asking questions like these will help you determine the right social media manager for your business.

What questions would you add to this list?

One final thought though… I don’t think this is a position that should be taken lightly, or seen as an entry-level position. A social media manager will speak the lifeblood of your business to an indefinite amount of customers. The skills needed to fulfill the diverse tasks of varying social marketing campaigns means both expertise and experience is crucial. Would you trust an unproven CEO to run your business in a new direction? Would you trust an unskilled social media manager to guide your brand online?

American Mainstream Media – Player Or Tool?

Many different types of communication tools, such as the TV, cinema, radio, newspapers and magazines, web sites and the music industry, can be classified as media. An important issue relating American media is the concept of “concentration of media ownership”. This concept implies that the ownership of most of America’s media lay in the hands of a few media conglomerates, who both earn huge sums of money through advertising and sale of copyrighted material, and, at the same time, are considered as important global players, regarding the fact that they influence people’s views about their surrounding world to a large extent.

But on the other hand, some argue that instead of being powerful players, the American media are in fact tools in the hands of the government. In this paper, each theory will be investigated to see which one better describes the role of media in both the American society and also the world.

It is claimed that there is no stronger power in the world than the American public opinion, and this public opinion is itself shaped by the media, so media can be regarded as taking the place of the powerful kings and popes of the past centuries (National Vanguard Books, 2004). There are many different ways through which media carefully shapes people’s opinions. It provides its audience with an image of the world, and then tells them what and how to think about that image. By stereotyping, the media also tell people how to think and judge about others (this others can refer to different races, women…). The media also plays its role by concentrating on certain stories and issues, while omitting others.

Among other communication media, the television is the most influential, regarding the fact that people spend a lot of time watching TV, probably much more than they spend on other media, such as the cinema or newspapers. According to a survey by Mediamark Research, 98% of Americans have a television, while only 79% are newspaper readers. Three examples of how public opinion is shaped by American media are:

– middle east news, and how the Arab-Israeli conflict is portrayed
– the 9/11 events and the wars that followed
– racial issues

The government has always declared the media to be a power that doesn’t always act in the right way. The conservatives have always complained that the US media have been unpatriotic and not supportive of government’s foreign policy, or simply too liberal.

The Media Research Center has carried out a study on the role of media on the war on terror, from such a conservative viewpoint. The report gives examples of why the American media have not reported the war and relating issues in the correct way:

– Peter Jennings of ABC, in a live program 2 days after the 9/11 attacks stated: “the US might no longer be a free country” and he also claimed that civil liberties have been suspended in the country.
– The “US Patriot Act” was reflected in a way by the media that made it look like some form of unconstitutional “snooping into the lives of ordinary Americans”.
– In the case of moving of Al-Qaede prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, media reported that they had been tortured, and should have access to civilian courts.
– When the New York Times revealed that the NSA (National Security Agency) was monitoring phone calls, it made it look like a threat to civil liberties. (Rich Noyes, 2006)

There are other studies that have used the war on terror to conclude that the media in America have been independent players, and not controlled by the government.

Jim Kuypers is a political communication researcher who claims that the mainstream media intentionally reflected the speeches of President Bush in a biased manner. Kuyper claims that “if someone were relying only on the mainstream media for information, they would have no idea what the president actually said. It was as if the press were reporting on a different speech.” He concludes the US media to be an “anti-democratic institution”. (Kuypers, 2006)

Other writers have claimed that the media have concentrated too much on the government’s failures and weaknesses during the war. (Lustick, 2006)

Opposing this “media as power” theory which portrays the US media as an independent power, calls it the “Fourth Estate”, and claims that journalists are more influential than any government official in setting the public (and sometimes foreign) agenda, are the “media as tool” advocates.

Two important points helps understand why the media are referred to as a tool:

– the media is dependent on the government for the information that it can obtain, and that it can call credible
– the media can criticize the government only within certain parameters that are acceptable to the government and its notion of national security

These facts are said to turn the media into a public relations arm of the US government. (Edward, 1993)

Again, the war on terror would be an interesting context in which the role of media can be studied, this time with the “media as tool” viewpoint.

The concept of “embedded journalism” appeared during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and proved to be a good way to keep reporters content and controlled at the same time. The media put pressure on the government to allow them better access to battlegrounds; they were not pleased with the way they were shut down from information in case of Afghanistan, and also the way they were censored in the Gulf War. And pentagon made the best out of all this, as Lt. Col. Rick Long of the U.S. Marine Corps put it: “Frankly, our job is to win the war. Part of that is information warfare. So we are going to attempt to dominate the information environment.” (Kahn, 2004)

In this project, reporters signed contracts with the military which limited what they were allowed to report. Reporters were embedded in selected military units, and so shared their everyday lives with soldiers, and relied on them to get them to the place they wanted, and they usually didn’t have access to any other source other than the military.

A Penn State study reveals that this project did affect the number and the type of stories that were published by major newspapers, and the result was that more articles about the U.S. soldiers’ personal lives and fewer ones about the impact of the war on Iraqi civilians were printed in the 754 news articles that were analyzed in this study. (Linder, 2006)

It can be concluded that the media can enjoy a certain degree of independence, provided that they don’t cross certain red lines, and remain faithful to certain notions that are important to the US government. American media is not just a “power” or a “tool”, but a powerful tool that can be used in a very affective way by the government, if only they can come up with clever ideas and projects, like the “embedded journalism” project. In the “Information Age” (Hess and Kalb, 2003), tactics like hiding the whole story or direct censoring will certainly be ineffective. The US government surely will evaluate its “embedding strategy” and might come up with new and innovative ideas in order to reflect issues and events in its own way, and stay in control of this powerful soft tool.

1. Edward, Herman, The media’s role in U.S. foreign policy (Power of the Media in the Global System), Journal of International Affairs, June 1993
2. Hess, Stephen and Kalb, Martin, The Media and the War on Terrorism, Brookings Institution Press, 2003
3. Kahn, Jeffery, Postmortem: Iraq war media coverage dazzled but it also obscured, NewsCenter, 18 March 2004
4. Kuypers, Jim, Bush’s War: Media Bias and Justifications for War in a Terrorist Age, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. , October 28, 2006
5. Lustick, Ian S., Trapped in the War on Terror. University of Pennsylvania Press, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006
6. Linder, Andrew, Study on Embedded Journalism, The Pennsylvania State University, 2006
7. Noyes, Rich, MRC research director, The Media vs. The War on Terror: How ABC, CBS, and NBC Attack America’s Terror-Fighting Tactics as Dangerous, Abusive and Illegal, September 11, 2006

8. Research staff of National Vanguard Books, Who Rules America? The Alien Grip Our News and Entertainment Media Must Be Broken, November 2004