3 PR and Marketing Must-Haves for 2019

The signs of autumn are all around us—shorter days, pumpkin spice in abundance and 2019 budgets looming over our heads. Take this opportunity to revitalize your efforts. There are some evergreen items that are important to any successful marketing and public relations campaign, including pertinent social media, thought provoking content and strong media relations programs. However, what additional PR and marketing must-haves can you explore now to supplement these programs and make sure the budget is in place for them in the coming year?

As we say goodbye to summer, there are a few additional initiatives that are essential to giving your company an additional marketing edge:

  • Website refresh: A bit like spring cleaning, updating your website is a chance to rejuvenate it, make sure the messaging projected is current along with any facts and figures that are used. Still citing 2008 statistics? Time to find new content. Verify links and calls to action, ensuring they are all still relevant. Criteria to enhance SEO benefits are always being updated, so this is a chance to check meta tags, keywords and make sure that your site adheres to Google’s Mobile First push, which uses the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site. Adding fresh content, including blogs and video, helps with your search ranking and keeps visitors returning for more.
  • Webinars: Continue building thought leadership and trust with your target audiences through webinars. Increase brand awareness and get your messaging across while adding a human element to your company. People often view speakers as authorities on a given topic, so take this opportunity to show your knowledge. Webinars also are a chance to gather information on potential leads to supplement your sales funnel. These sessions can be recorded for future use and repurposed into whitepapers, eBooks, blogs or bylined article. Video bites can be captured and shared on your website and social media.
  • Customer testimonials: A recent study found that 86 percent of respondents felt online reviews were extremely, very or moderately important before making a purchasing decision. No matter how good you are, it carries more weight if someone else says it. Whether via text or video, having the people that use your product discuss how it helps them humanizes your company, lends credibility and illustrates the power of your solutions. These “reports from the field” give media and sales prospects narratives about how a solution is applied in a real-world situation and serve as tools for your sales team, along with fresh content for your website, lead generation and social media efforts.

These three tactics each have value on their own, work well together and will enhance an established public relations program or kick-start a new one. Better yet, there is no “one size fits all” approach to any of the above programs, so they can be tailored to your comfort level. Start at one level and scale up once you see results. Use your 2019 budget to employ tactics that will establish brand loyalty.

6 Reasons Why You (and Your Company) Should Participate in National Healthcare IT Week

On this blog we often talk about how to use PR and marketing to help build the brand and drive sales for healthcare and healthcare IT (HIT) products. Most of the time the activities we discuss require some significant effort. But there’s an online event coming up next week that can actually pay big dividends with considerably less of an investment on your part: National Healthcare IT Week. Here’s the skinny…

Who: Thought leaders, Health IT companies and future Healthcare IT entrepreneurs

What: National Healthcare IT Week #NHITweek

When: October 8th – October 12th

Where: Online and locally

Why: It’s easy, relevant, it’s a great cause and great for building trust as a brand

Founded by HIMSS and the Institute for e-Policy, U.S. National Health IT Week (NHIT Week) is a nationwide awareness week focused on catalyzing actionable change within the U.S. health system through the application of information and technology. The week-long event is celebrated through partner-driven, national and local events along with online conversations through social media. It’s easy to get involved, so what’s the holdup?

Social media is often misunderstood as an unnecessary evil, especially in healthcare, but it is an amazing tool that allows you to reach your audience in a way that was never possible before. While developing and maintaining an online community does take time and resources, events like this allow users to reap some of the benefits quickly.

Even if you don’t have an internal social media coordinator or an amazing agency managing your online presence, you can still participate in National Healthcare IT Week and other similar events. Here are six reasons to jump on board if you haven’t already.

  1. Engage with like-minded people and companies. These types of events create a community around the cause. By finding like-minded people you may be able to make beneficial connections that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
  2. Gain a better understanding of the conversation. Conversations during these events come from a variety of perspectives. It’s common to get stuck viewing the world with tunnel vision by reviewing the same new sites, having favorite writers and viewpoints.
  3. Find new influencers. Participating in events like this including tweet chats are a great way to quickly find people with similar ideals with your company. You might find people experiencing problems you can solve.
  4. Gain trust with your target market. Trust is one of the most important aspects of the customer experience. These events offer a condensed time-frame that allows you to be a part of the conversation. It’s a great opportunity to show other users that your company actually wants to help.  Humanize your brand and spread awareness for the cause.
  5. Stay top of mind. Your competitors are likely participating in these events. Stay top of mind with your prospects and target market. Bonus: you will be top of mind with good sentiment.
  6. Take advantage of scalability. These events allow your organization to really adjust your involvement based on your resources. Participate in every aspect or do what you can with the time you and your team have available.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Become a partner
  • Share on social media
  • Share your story
  • Create or participate in an event locally

Be sure to let us know how you participate in the comments below too!

That Ol’ PR Magic…Real Examples from Amendola Clients

The question I hear most often from new clients and prospects is, “How do we know if PR program is working and how can we measure our success?”

It’s not an easy question!

To begin with, the goal of PR is to increase brand awareness…and that’s not an easily quantifiable objective. It almost always comes from multiple touch points, plus calls for insight into different media outlets’ true audience numbers. That’s something my team works hard to get, as we’re not content to just take as a given the numbers these outlets report.

But here’s where the questions about PR success get scary for some in our profession. What customers and prospects really want to know is, how many leads will a PR program generate?

Honestly, this is only quantifiable if you put the work into web analytics and lead scoring, and tightly align your PR and marketing teams. We love our clients that go these extra lengths! Even better if you can align with a service such as Meltwater to measure and track placements and sentiment.

But that said, I have to tell you…we hear from clients regularly that lead gen is a happy byproduct of PR, even when they aren’t taking those extra steps!

Here are just a few real examples of this PR magic:

  • After securing a case study commitment from a hospital that used our client’s predictive analytics, we were able to place this customer success story in a healthcare publication that hospital CIOs regularly read. Sure enough, our client’s phone was soon ringing from a CIO who had read the story and said, “This is the tool we ought to be using.” Shortly after, this hospital launched a pilot of our client’s solution, and from there, became a full-fledged and highly quotable customer.
  • We landed one of our clients a coveted spot on a leading publication’s symposium on the opioid crisis. After the panel discussion, a prospect approached our client, who shared with us, “We basically closed a $1 million deal right then and there.”
  • One of our telehealth clients has raced up the Google rankings thanks to the many PR placements we’ve secured. This has been particularly meaningful for our client’s marketing department, which typically expends significant resources on keeping these rankings high. According to our client, PR has organically done what paid SEO never did: garner the top ranking in the client’s respective space. “And made our competition a distant spec in search ranking!” said our client.
  • 10 minutes after a story we pitched to a trade publication ran the client received a qualified lead.
  • Industry conference publications are a hard outlet to crack unless paying for a spot, but this past year, we managed to secure a number of write ups for Amendola clients, at no cost, in one of the most widely read publications in the lead up to HIMSS18. This resulted in prospects reaching out to our clients, including to one client whose CEO subsequently sent out a memo stating, “This is what PR and marketing does for us.”

Check out more examples of Amendola’s PR magic at our collection of customer success stories here. As you’ll see, PR does work…in many ways, to achieve many different business goals.

Interesting in making some magic with us? Shoot me an email at jamendola@acmarketingpr.com. I’d love to hear from you!

5 Confessions of a Former Healthcare Trade Publication Editor

Prior to joining Amendola Communications, I was a senior editor at Medical Economics, the largest monthly business management journal for primary care practices. Before that, I was a senior editor at a couple monthly city business publications as well as a daily newspaper reporter.

The journalistic experience has proven invaluable as a public relations writer because it gives me a deeper understanding of how to create the articles that editors want in their publications. As an editor, I would receive pitches daily from PR professionals. I admit that not every pitch received the time and attention that were clearly put into them, for various reasons which I will describe later.

My last day as a publication editor was in May 2011. Judging from my experience since then as an independent and agency PR writer, however, not much has changed, other than the growing importance of social media, which you can read more about from one of our experts here. In that light, here are five confessions from my time as an editor reviewing countless pitches from PR and marketing professionals that might help your company score an interview or article placement.

  1. If it wasn’t relevant to us, it was deleted. Explain clearly in the pitch how the potential article’s information would be relevant to readers. The editor may not agree, but at least it demonstrates that you took the time to learn about the publication instead of just sending out a mass email with the editor’s name at the top.
  2. Data/outcomes were always interesting. Quantifiable results jumped out in a pitch, especially when there was a “$” before those numbers. Business management publications, even in healthcare, love to publish articles about dollars earned or saved. Numbers were even more powerful if my publication was offered the first chance to share them with readers, which brings us to another attention grabber.
  3. Exclusivity was exciting and appreciated. Offering just one publication the first opportunity on a story can be difficult for a company because it limits or delays spreading the story to a wider audience. Exclusivity, however, is alluring to many publication editors, especially web or breaking news publications where being first is mission critical.
  4. Sharing research builds trust. This tip is somewhat unique to healthcare, but as a trade editor, I always appreciated when a company representative presented medical journal literature that supported the claims in the pitch. Medical journals, unlike marketing content, are objective and critical, which are two qualities journalists prize. Presenting literature in the pitch showed me that the company was trying to be as transparent as possible, which built trust and fostered a stronger relationship with the company representative.
  5. Offering a real customer was almost a sure thing. Interviewing or publishing an article by a senior executive didn’t intrigue me as an editor as much as speaking with a physician or other customer of the company’s solution. This rule especially held fast if the company was relatively new. Readers want to learn from other readers like them, which is part of the reason today why blogs and YouTube channels from ordinary people are so popular. Sharing the perspective of an actual customer also builds credibility, and again, earns trust with the editor and readers.

There are plenty more tips I could share to grab an editor’s attention, but another quality I appreciated in pitches was conciseness, so I’ll stop there. Fortunately for Amendola Communications, we have lots of former print and web journalists working here, and many others with extensive media-relations expertise. Give us a call—or email—and we can discuss how we can help spread the word about your company across all types of business and consumer print and digital media.

I promise that we will respond.

 

Embrace the Paywall Future – Because it’s Coming

For several years now we all have lived in luxury, enjoying free content on the Internet that’s paid for through ads and data mining, with no paywall to contend with. But, as many prominent media outlets have noted, things are beginning to change.

Back in the early days of the Internet (and in the print media era of old), we as consumers paid for the content we wanted to read and watch. With the advent of Adblock Plus – not to mention a reduction in advertising budgets – many news websites and online magazines are going back to subscription business models, unable to maintain profits with optional “premium” services and banner ads alone.

What does this mean for those of us in media relations? It means we’re going to have to set expectations for our clients, educating them on the state of the media. Because like it or not, it does seem more paywalls are popping up, which means public relations and marketing plans have no choice but to adapt.

On its face, things may appear dire – it’s hard to share content on social media and on a personal blog when a link appears behind a paywall. But, there are some positive takeaways to the coming “subscription era” of Internet journalism that could mean more meaningful placements, better quality leads, and superior content than what we’re getting now in the “free and open” era of Internet publication.

Subscribers Read – and Readers are Your Target Audience

I’m a bit of a hipster. So, I still subscribe to a few print magazines. Since I don’t like my money to go to waste, I actually read those magazines, sometimes even cover-to-cover. I also subscribe to a couple newspapers online, and I check them every day, reading the content that’s relevant to me and subscribing directly to the RSS feeds of columns and writers I like the most.

The takeaway here is this: Those who pay for content are more likely to actually read it. Studies have shown most people don’t read the content on their social media feed, often sharing links without even clicking on them. I’ll argue that this is a product of the free content era, wherein the overabundance of choice has rendered us all lost in a sea of noise. While it may be nice to get a social media share or a link click, ultimately what does that really mean in terms of educating the public on your business, thought leaders, and relevant news?

If you ask me, the answer might be “not much.” Too often our metrics for success are superficial, measured in total number of social media shares, clicks, and engagements, even if those engagements are largely the result of bots and humans users who act like bots. But, if someone subscribes to a publication, they are more likely to actually do some reading, because they have a financial stake in supporting that content. That means more meaningful social media shares and readers who actually do – you guessed it – some reading. This translates to real discussion and genuine interest, not just some generic comment and a quick share that’s aimed at strictly producing numbers.

If someone subscribes to an online (or print) magazine, that means they are genuinely interested in the topic. Ideally, when it comes to a media interview or byline that you want read, your target audience is interested. The subscription era means more quality readers, even if the quantity of superficial shares and clicks is reduced.

Building Meaningful Relationships

It’s an unspoken truth of media relations – backs need to be scratched, and sometimes your thoughtful expert source means less than the source from a company who bought an ad. It’s not fair and, quite frankly, it reduces the quality of the content journalists produce, but that’s the reality of for-profit media. Ads are how publications stay in business, at least for now.

As advertising budgets begin to dry up across the board, the “pay-for-play” approach to journalism is harder to navigate for companies looking to get coverage, particularly for smaller startups who are still working to expand and turn a profit.

A positive outcome to a subscription business model means ads will no longer determine who gets an interview, since the primary source of revenue would ideally be subscriptions. Further, “sponsored content” will no longer be a path to regular byline publication. Like in the days of old, sources will be judged based more on merits, and journalists will begin, once again, to seek the stories that are most interesting to them and their readers.

Much as how the subscription model means an increase in quality readers, the same holds true for the content journalists produce. For those in media relations, that means we can build meaningful relationships with journalists for the mutual benefit of providing sources, who in turn get their name and message into stories that are far more genuine than those produced under the guise of advertising.

While free content will likely persist long into the future, the trend seems to be that the best publications are going to put themselves behind a paywall before too long. This will bring challenges, particularly when it comes to sharing content on company blogs and in social media feeds. In time, content producers and social media users will undoubtedly adapt to these changes and find workarounds, since sharing is the key to more exposure. I think this problem will ultimately solve itself, though admittedly things won’t be as straightforward as they are presently.

Sure, it may seem strange now to imagine an Internet where all content isn’t free, but it’s coming. And there are positive aspects to this transformation that could benefit everyone involved in the media placement chain, from thought leaders to journalists and those of us in between.  One thing is for certain, it’s best to embrace this future instead of combatting it – because those who are prepared will be best equipped to navigate the changing landscape and find success. One thing is for certain: Subscription models do not signal the end of journalism, which means media relations will continue to play an important role in earning placements.

The Anatomy of a Successful Pitch

The Anatomy of a Successful Pitch

Nothing fills me with existential dread like sitting down to write a media pitch.

Give me the sweet relief of an 800-word byline ghostwritten under a soul-crushing deadline. Bury me under the gigabyte of bone-dry peer-reviewed research I need to complete an immensely complex white paper. Let me spend eight hours hacking through a labyrinthine approval process just to get sign off on 400-word “new hire” press release.

Anything I do in the PR world is easier than convincing a stressed out and overworked journalist with a trigger finger on the junk file that my story is worth telling—and doing it in under 100 very concise and very compelling words.

Below are what I believe to be the essentials of a good pitch, broken out by its main components. Following this advice is not going to guarantee a media hit for your client, but it will dramatically increase your chances.

The Subject Line. It’s true that many—maybe even most—pitches live or die based on the subject line, but that doesn’t mean you should panic and resort to dumb gimmicks in a bid to win a journalist’s attention. Expending way too many precious words to support a style of writing—funny, hyperbolic or scare-quotes clever—you can’t pull off wastes everyone’s time.

Think of it this way: The subject line is your pitch reduced to its simplest form. For that reason, I prefer to write my subject lines last. Good pitch writing usually leaves a lot of tasty leftovers that just couldn’t be fit into the final revision; an interesting turn of phrase and a good word choice or two that didn’t make the cut can usually be repurposed into an effective Subject Line. If you feel you are really rusty, cut-and-paste your entire pitch, then slowly whittle it to its most essential elements.

The Opening Sentence. When I was a journalist, I was often surprised at the amount of “throat-clearing” in the pitches I received. I’m not a captive audience, dude! Into the trash you go!

If you have done your due diligence—carefully researching the outlets and reporters that would be a good fit for your story—you can avoid kicking off your story roughly 30 seconds after the newly formed Earth cooled.

Strategies will vary based on the story you are trying to tell, but I have had the most luck just telling the reporter what I want and why they should care: “Hey, [JOURNALIST], I’ve read your coverage on [TOPIC.] This [STORY] for [THESE REASONS] would be useful to your readers.”

If it sounds prosaic, that’s because it is. But by eliminating the throat-clearing, you can simply and honestly convey a.) your knowledge of the reporter; b.) your familiarity with how they have covered their beat; and c.) why your story is relevant to that coverage.

The Body. Most posts filed in the “pitching advice” genre emphasize the importance of brevity. And they’re right! Unfortunately, this can be taken to an extreme. A good pitch will offer a solid framework that the reporter can use to build the rest of the story. Use you pitch to cover the journalistic bases—who, what, when, where, why and how. Add relevant links to your pitch—to your sources’ LinkedIn profiles, evidence supporting your pitch idea and/or interesting industry trends, for example. Statistics relevant to a pitch help to ground it in reality. If you’re speaking about an end-user, be sure to provide specific numbers on the improvements they saw from using a solution. The more specifics, the better.

The Closer. A pitch should contain a clear call to action near the end, asking a reporter to specifically consider an interview or byline. A reporter may not be ready for this story right now, but politely ask them to keep you in mind for the future. Second, don’t be afraid to briefly offer to help a reporter with their coverage—now and into the future. Many opportunities arise from relationship-building that starts with a single pitch. Lastly, always thank a reporter for their time.

Final Advice

Almost as important as knowing how to write a good pitch is to know when you don’t have anything to pitch. Not everything a client does is a story or warrants legitimate coverage.

This is where client management comes into play. Capturing inbound interview requests—the sweet, sweet nectar of media relations—is a long and painstaking process of developing a trusted relationship mostly over electronic devices.

Pitching writing is both an art and science—which is part of the reason why creating them can be frustrating. Bad pitches are the kudzu of the public relations world, choking out good stories beneath an oppressive monoculture of bad faith and even worse writing. The problem is so pervasive that entire websites and Twitter feeds are dedicated to terrible pitches. However, devoting your energies to the right components of a pitch will ensure a greater level of success.

6 Ways Trade Outlets Trump National Media for B2B Marketing and PR

6 Ways Trade Outlets Trump National Media for B2B Marketing and PR

Whenever we ask clients about their “dream placement,” national media (especially the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal) always top the list. These multi-platform outlets, after all, attract millions of eyeballs on a daily basis.

Although there is no denying the substantial publicity boost a mainstream media outlet can bring, trade pubs and niche outlets offer several advantages, especially for companies in business-to-business industries such as healthcare IT. Savvy PR pros recognize their importance and feature them prominently in PR/marketing plans.

How do healthcare trade outlets trump mainstream press for B2B PR? Let me count the ways:

Target audience. A mention in USA Today is impressive but offers little benefit to a company that markets a telehealth platform. While millions of people visit the site daily, it’s highly unlikely they are there to learn about telemedicine. An article in Becker’s Hospital Review, with 1.4 million monthly visitors, has a greater chance of reaching clinicians and medical directors. In addition, buyers in the later stages of the buying cycle prefer to get their information from trade outlets. That’s because B2B outlets dive deeper into technical details while major publications cover broad topics in general terms.

Legitimacy. Trade outlets are highly respected by industry insiders. Health IT professionals rely on industry associations such as HIMSS and CHIME to provide insight on laws and regulations that affect the industry. A consistent presence in their newsletters and websites can brand a new company as a legitimate player or help establish a company founder as a thought leader.

Digital presence. There is a definite trend away from print toward digital, which means fewer space restrictions and more room to expand on a topic. There is also a trend toward specialized sites and blogs (e.g. HIStalk, Healthcare Musings). Even LinkedIn has a healthcare channel run by a former editor of Modern Healthcare. Answers Media has created several sites — HITECH Answers, Health Data Answers, RCM Answers, to name a few. It also has an internet radio station, HealthcareNow Radio, with 15 shows attracting 1,400 listeners a day who listen an average of 30 minutes. An article on one of their sites could potentially be seen by 42,000 visitors, shared among 25,000 social media followers, and be featured in a weekly e-newsletter sent to 50,000 subscribers.

Greater use of press releases. Have press releases become obsolete? That may be true for pitching B2C publications, but B2B pubs welcome news releases relevant to their niche audience. Trade editors are also more willing to run press releases in both print and online, Tweet them out, and include links back to your website, enabling you to re-share the posts and expand reach.

Sending a new product press release along with a brief pitch about a new tablet device for seniors to a trade publication such as McKnight’s Long-Term Care News is a direct hit. It shows you know the publication and its audience.

Article placements. National publications prefer to report about large companies and breaking news. Getting quoted in a major publication may take weeks, even months, though it is not impossible as this example in Forbes shows. On the other hand, niche editors are happy to report on small companies in their sector. As long as the pitch is on-topic, they will respond to media requests faster and publish articles sooner. In addition, because trade outlets are often short on staff, they’re more open to accepting contributed articles as long as they are objective and vendor-neutral. Click here to see a sample placement in Health Data Management.

Reversioned content. PR can repurpose a byline article placed in a niche publication into owned media, webinars, case studies, and pitches to larger outlets. We call this the “turkey carve out” approach to content. It works only if you start out with a 25-pound turkey, not a Cornish game hen. We advise or remind our clients to amplify the article using corporate social media channels. We also recommend creating a marketing e-blast to customers and prospects with a link to the article.

Journalists and editors for major newspapers and consumer magazines often use trade journals to research article assignments. The trade pub article may become your ticket to being part of a bigger story in a major consumer pub, eventually getting your CEO the mainstream hit s/he desires.

What to do when PR is “not working”

What to do when PR is “not working”

Every so often a client will tell us they aren’t sure our PR (public relations) efforts are working. The first time a client expressed that sentiment to me I was immediately defensive – because we had been placing well-written bylines in industry publications, coordinated multiple interviews and helped them populate their website with meaningful press releases and blog posts.

Then the client went on say he was basing his opinion on the fact that his company hadn’t seen an uptick in sales leads since starting their PR program six months earlier – which immediately stopped me from obsessing. I then realized that my client 1) didn’t have a firm grasp of what public relations is and isn’t, and, 2) didn’t understand what his company could and should be doing internally to leverage our PR efforts to advance other organizational goals – including the generation of more sales leads.

In case you ever find yourself wondering if PR is working for your company – and what to do if it’s not – here are a few thoughts on what public relations is and isn’t, as well as some suggestions to help your organization maximize the value of its PR initiatives.

Back to basics: what’s PR anyway?

At a high level, PR involves raising public awareness about a company, including its leadership in the industry, unique offerings and differentiating qualities. Public relations professionals focus on making companies top-of-mind within their specific industry niche.

To help raise a company’s profile, a PR firm will often capitalize on national industry trends to showcase an organization’s capabilities, differentiators, innovation and/or expertise. PR companies also promote members of a client’s executive team as industry thought leaders, either through media interviews or the placement of bylined, thought-leadership articles.

On the other hand, PR is not:

  • A lead generation service – though occasionally a well-placed interview does attract new prospects.
  • My octogenarian father doesn’t fully understand what my PR job entails and often tells people I handle things like writing catchy slogans, creating magazine ads and coordinating promotional campaigns. Of course, these are all functions that fall under the advertising umbrella and not traditional PR activities.
  • Marketing, which primarily focuses on the promotion and selling of specific products and services.

One final point of clarification: though advertising, lead-generation and marketing are not considered PR activities, many PR firms – including Amendola – offer these services, as well as content creation, social media, strategic counseling and more.

PR: a marathon and not a sprint

PR is often described as a marathon, rather than a sprint, because it typically takes months – even years – to realize the fruits of your PR labor. But a well-crafted and strategic PR program usually delivers the desired results over time. Within our firm, for example, we’ve witnessed small start-ups grow into industry leaders. We’ve also seen clients who have realized their exit goals after PR campaigns helped them appear on the radar of companies looking for investment and acquisition opportunities.

If you are just a few months into a PR program and questioning why your CEO still hasn’t appeared in the Wall Street Journal, you may want to check the marathon mile marker and reframe your expectations. Results rarely happen overnight – and this is particularly true if you don’t have end-users or executives willing and able to talk to media, or if you are in an over-crowded market niche.

Amplifying the value of PR efforts

If you’re anxious to see results from your PR program, here are a few best practices to help amplify the value of your PR efforts:

Social media. Any time a new interview or thought-leadership is published, share the news on your social media channels, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Also consider sending an e-blast of the article (or a link) to your customers and prospects. Be sure to include relevant hashtags and a short summary. Do share the article link multiple times, though try to mix up the messaging each time.

While you do want to leverage all placements, make sure too that your social media content includes more than self-promotion. You’ll gain new followers faster if you also post commentary on industry news or share interesting articles that are not directly related to your organization. To be seen as an industry thought leader you must demonstrate awareness of the broader market, and not just what’s going on in your company.

Here are some additional social media best practices to consider.

Stay fresh.  Try to maintain a regular cadence when issuing press releases, posting new blog posts and publishing thought leadership articles. Companies sometimes struggle with this, especially organizations that must secure content approval from multiple team members. However, fresh news and commentary should be a priority as it helps keep your company top-of-mind with the media, prospects and customers.

Also, be sure your website is updated with new content on an ongoing basis. When dropping a press release to the media, the news should also be immediately shared on your site. Similarly, add links or summaries of interviews and bylined articles as soon as they’re published, and regularly add new blogs on relevant topics. Visitors will return to your site more often if it’s seen as a source of interesting and regularly-updated content.

Cultivate thought leaders. For many company executives, the role of industry thought leader comes naturally. For others, talking to the media about current opportunities and future trends is more of a struggle.

If you have executives who find it challenging to communicate the company’s key messages or share their vision for the industry, encourage them to invest time in media training. Many PR firms offer this service and can help executives craft jargon-free messaging, as well as provide tips for delivering their story clearly and succinctly.

An additional tip for thought leaders: make yourself readily available to media when opportunities arise. Editors appreciate leaders who make themselves assessible and will remember the courtesy, should your company ever need a favor from a member of the media.

Find more tips for thought leaders here.

How does your organization evaluate the effectiveness of its PR efforts?

What An Older, More Mature Lebron James Can Teach Us About Crisis Communications

What An Older, More Mature Lebron James Can Teach Us About Crisis Communications

In most cities, a sports star leaving to join another team wouldn’t quite reach the level of crisis. No doubt, the world has countless far more serious and urgent problems.

But Cleveland’s a little different than most cities. Egos are a bit more fragile here after decades of job loss, population decline, environmental damage, and not to mention sports ineptitude –  or so it seems to this (humble) outsider who first moved to Cleveland about a decade ago.

So after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ drubbing yet again at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in June, coupled with LeBron James’ impending free agency, thing were looking pretty bad for Cleveland. Despite hailing from nearby Akron and enjoying close ties with the local community, LeBron looked likely to depart Cleveland for a sexier, more glamourous destination, leaving the locals he left in his wake feeling abandoned and forgotten.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. But to LeBron’s credit, he learned from a past mistake, and let Cleveland fans down a little easier this time, while simultaneously providing a lesson on crisis communications.

We’ve seen this movie before
The date of “The Decision” by James – July 8, 2010 – is one that lives in Cleveland sports infamy. On that night, the then-25-year-old who is perhaps the greatest sports star the city has ever known crushed his hometown fans by announcing on live TV his intention to “take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” Next came the reaction. A city mourned, jerseys were burned, insults were hurled, and one melodramatic fan called it “the worst day of my life.”

Later that night, Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert hastily published a scathing open letter notoriously printed in comic sans font excoriating James for a “several-day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special.” Illustrating that Gilbert’s PR team had ready access to a thesaurus, the irate owner peppered his letter with several enjoyable descriptions of James and his decision, including “cowardly betrayal,” “shameful display of selfishness,” “shocking act of disloyalty,” and “heartless and callous action.”

To be clear, the majority of Cleveland fans weren’t angry at James for signing with Miami; they were upset by the “needless pain” he inflicted on the city for the spectacle of “The Decision,” which I recall one commentator comparing to a newly minted millionaire going on national tv to tell his high-school sweetheart he’s dumping her to move in with a supermodel.

Indeed, players change teams all the time (LeBron has now done it three times) “but no player has ever done it with the pomp, phoniness, pseudo-humility, and rehearsed innocence” as James, as a Chicago Sun-Times columnist correctly observed. That’s what understandably perturbed Cleveland fans, and later provided James with an opportunity to show growth in his style of public communication.

A second chance
After James spent four seasons in Miami and won two championships while making the NBA Finals every year, in 2014 he did what was once unthinkable. He mended fences (kind of) with Gilbert, rejoined the Cavs and led the city to its first major professional sports championship since 1964.

Then James broke Cleveland’s heart all over again. On July 1, 2018, the now-33-year-old James announced he was leaving the Cavaliers once more, having signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

But this time it was different – no self-serving, nationally televised special; no week-long buildup of drama and, thankfully, no jersey burnings or lamentations about the worst day of fans’ lives. James and his advisors simply delivered the news in 36-word press release:

LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA finals MVP, fourteen time NBA All Star, and two time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to a four year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

While unnecessarily trumpeting his major accomplishments on the court isn’t the height of modesty, James deserves credit for learning from his mistakes and rolling out his latest “decision” in a far more muted, low-key fashion.

And that brings us to what we can learn from James in crisis communications: Be brief, take responsibility, get to the point and don’t sugarcoat things.

While this is a lesson that apparently took James eight years to learn, healthcare organizations can learn from his mistakes by never committing them in the first place.

And it’s probably best to avoid ever proclaiming that you’re taking your talents anywhere.