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    1. How to Be a PR Hero According to a Journalist

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      public relations best practices

      Last week was an interesting PR convergence of sorts for me.

      I emerged from the boiler room with AirPR’s CEO, our lead investor, and some of the top marketing and PR minds on the planet with what I’m sure will be the next big thing in navigating our story-driven world. (Stay tuned. It’s going to be a fun ride.)

      One of my dear friends simultaneously sent me this article on the birth of PR and where it is now, which helped frame the conversation. It’s well worth the read if you have five minutes.

      Additionally, LinkedIn announced the launch of Trending Storylines, which is a noteworthy attempt to diffuse the noise and surface quality content to interested readers.

      Then, I ended up on an informal call with Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur (a publication I’ve been contributing to for over five years). We discussed TechCrunch’s recent announcement to cut PR pros out of the mix in terms of contributed content.

      The result of our convo has been documented below for what I believe is the culmination of this PR convergence: The future of PR is all about quality. Data helps. Research helps. Being a human and not a robot helps. Creative thinking helps. Good products and services help. Impeccable storytelling helps…

      But how do we get there? Check out Jason’s thoughts below.

      Rebekah Iliff: How do you think PR played into TechCrunch’s decision to accept contributed content on an invite-only basis?  Do you think we will continue to see publications raise standards for what they accept in terms of contributed content?

      Jason Feifer: I can’t speak to TechCrunch’s decision-making, but I do think every brand is thinking hard about how to remain relevant and trusted. A media brand is nothing without its credibility; it needs to be considered an authoritative source for information, and that authority is built or diminished with every story it publishes. Quality control is a must.

      RI: An overabundance of pitches from PR people makes it difficult for reporters to manage their inboxes. What’s a solution? Or, what’s a better way for PR professionals and reporters to work together?

      JF: I’ll tell you the solution from a journalist’s point of view, although I know it isn’t a practical solution from a PR firm’s point of view: PR people should send far fewer pitches. Like, maybe one tenth of what they currently send.

      I receive probably 100 PR pitches a day, and 99 to 100 of them aren’t a fit for Entrepreneur. If publicists were only pitching publications they were confident would be interested in the story—a confidence built upon research and a deep familiarity with the publication and the kinds of stories it runs—I’m confident that I’d be getting only a small handful of pitches every day, and those pitches would more regularly lead to coverage.

      Here’s a situation that repeats itself with regularity: A publicist sends me a pitch that’s way, way off from the kind of stories I run. I ignore it. They send me two or three follow-up emails, and eventually I relent and respond to say “this isn’t a fit.” The publicist then replies to say something like, “I figured it was a long-shot, but had to try anyway.” This response drives me crazy. If you knew it was a long-shot, why pitch it? That just damages your credibility, and makes it more likely that I’ll ignore the next pitch entirely.

      I do understand that a publicist isn’t always exercising their own judgment. They’re sometimes at the mercy of their boss, or specific demands from their client. But the entire industry—and every client—would benefit if pitches were sent with real discretion.

      RI: How do you think PR professionals can be better “PR citizens” in terms of the quality of content and ideas they pitch?

      JF: Research. Most publicists who pitch me haven’t spent any time understanding the kinds of stories Entrepreneur covers. Their emails make that very clear. If they truly dug into the magazine—and to every major publication they’re pitching—and thought critically about what’s in there and why, I really do think they’d more consistently land stories. That would serve their clients better, and, for what it’s worth, make journalists’ inboxes happier places as well.

      RI: What makes a great source? 

      JF: When I’m interviewing someone, I want humanity. The best sources are willing to tell me how they think and feel, and reveal their concerns, mistakes, and challenges. When a source only sticks to their talking points, or speaks like a Harvard Business School textbook, or glosses over the challenges they’ve faced in their business, I lose interest and am more likely to exclude them from the magazine.

      Now, if you’re talking about those pitches that PR people often send where they say “if you’re covering X subject, here’s an expert you should interview,” I don’t think I’ve ever replied to a pitch like that. Those pitches are frequently tied to the day’s news, and as a monthly magazine editor, I’m just not chasing the daily story.

      At a monthly, I can’t envision any situation where those pitches would make sense. They’re so temporal; for it to be useful, I’d have to be working on a story at the moment that email came in. Otherwise, I’m just going to delete it and forget about whatever source is being pitched.

      Thanks, Jason.

      AirPR Blog readers: Let’s work together to push the PR industry from a state of noise pollution to thoughtful storytelling and consciously useful information sharing. What do you say?

    2. The Science of PR: The PRTech Ecosystem

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      Roughly five years ago, AirPR set out on a journey to change the way the PR industry thinks about and measures the impact of PR. Along with my co-founder Raj Sathyamurthi, my founding team members Rebekah Iliff and Patrick Liang, and a growing team of more than thirty engineers, sales people, customer success managers, and marketers, we are enacting the original vision and continuing our mission of “empowering PR leaders” with technology.

      While we rarely share news about ourselves on the AirPR Blog, today we have something quite exciting to share!

      Today we’ve announced our Series B funding led by Storm Ventures, with other notable investments by Salesforce Ventures and Mohr Davidow Ventures. We’re thrilled to finally let the cat out of the bag with the help of TechCrunch Senior Writer Anthony Ha. (Our greatest appreciation to Anthony!)

      In a fun game of “name that milestone”, here’s what we’ve been up to the last few years:

      To date, we have raised $10 million from investors including 500 Startups founding partner Dave McClure, Audrey Capital/WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, Correlation Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, and Storm Ventures.

      In 2012, we launched Analyst—our PR analytics, insights, and measurement solution—to a select group of brands and PR professionals.

      In 2013, we publicly launched the product and, in two years, built a growing customer base including brands like Qualcomm, Experian, McGraw-Hill Education, Survios, and Kiva.

      In 2014, we coined the term “PRTech” and created an ecosystem of companies that are turning PR into more of a science, and less of an immeasurable art. We believe this PRTech ecosystem is only as impactful as our community is strong.

      In 2015, we launched a Reporting suite to our customers, and gave PR pros hours of their precious time back, shrinking their reporting duties from eight hours to 45 minutes on average.

      As of today, our talented engineers have built a full-scale web crawler from scratch, engineered the first PR attribution model, and built a product that processes over 10 TB of data a day and over 700 million articles. We are also an official partner of Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics.

      Our PR engineering team (aka customer success) continues its obsession with customer education, ultimately allowing our customers to showcase outcomes that matter to the C-Suite including: increased site traffic, engagement, key trends, competitive analysis, message pull-through, and more.

      As we celebrate this AirPR milestone and this month of giving thanks, we are certainly grateful to you. Without our customers, industry supporters, media partners, and all of our previous and current investors, we wouldn’t be here!

      Cheers to collectively propelling the PR industry forward. We’re excited to have you along for the ride…

    3. Reporting on the state of the PR industry

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      Nearly five years ago to date, when I was still in my twenties and San Francisco rent didn’t eat up half of one’s salary (imagine that!), I set out to solve a problem that many said would be “nearly impossible to do.” As any entrepreneur would, I thought: “PERFECT! I’m in.”

      I managed to convince two extremely brilliant computer science engineers and one idealistic PR domain expert to join me for the early stage ride…and ride we did.

      After the sale of our first product line, Marketplace, in early 2015 and with our focus now squarely on helping our customers showcase PR value through our Analyst product (Analytics, Insights, and Measurement), we’ve seen marked growth in both company size and revenue.

      We currently serve customers ranging from Qualcomm and McGraw-Hill Education to Experian and Kiva. We hit our success milestones early and are certainly proud of the product we’ve built, the talent we’ve attracted to join us, and the customers with whom we work every day to solve problems.

      AirPR Analyst PR reporting sampleAfter five years and as we launch our Reporting product this week (which increases PR productivity exponentially) I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. But we’ve got a ways to go as an industry.

      We still struggle to find standardization and consensus about both the PR role and how to communicate and showcase value to decision-makers. And unfortunately, some PR pros are STILL doing 2 things that should send them to PR Hell – which I imagine would consist of being forced to smile & dial 17 hours a day, repeating the same pitch over and over with no response:

      • Sending mass (note: not personalized) emails to journalists with only a press release and no context. What’s worse, these pitches are often offbeat and wholly irrelevant.
      • And perhaps more importantly: Reporting PR’s value by using Advertising Value Equivalency (AVEs), which has not only been banned by the Barcelona Principles committee but also VASTLY (and I mean VASTLY, we have data people) undervalues PR.

      While it is certainly an uphill battle of sorts, here’s what I know as fact based on over a half billion news articles we’ve tracked and analyzed over the last five years:

      1. Earned media coverage (whether it’s the New York Times, Marketing Land, or a guest post on the Google Analytics blog), is anywhere from 2 to 5 times more effective at getting potential customers to engage with your brand than traditional/digital advertising. The point? Having someone else make people aware of you is extremely important and generates curiosity and credibility.

      2. Owned media (i.e. building your brand through your own channel) is often just as effective for top of the funnel lead generation as earned media or advertising. The caveat: DON’T talk about yourself too much if at all. Instead think “educate, entertain, and engage.

      3. Competitive intelligence is mandatory to understand what your organization is doing well and what it isn’t. Companies don’t exist in a vacuum and neither do your PR activities. Benchmarking against yourself? That’s only mildly useful. Benchmarking against your competitors gives you far more insight into how you fit into the big picture.

      4. Press releases are useful for companies that have reached brand ubiquity in a specific category, or whom are required to make public statements of record for either investors or shareholders. Newswires are a commoditized channel for reporting news. They shouldn’t be used in attempt to build a story or a narrative, but rather to report facts.

      5. If specific, trackable metrics and KPIs (blog sign-ups, demo requests, etc.) don’t exist for PR, then you are simply doing a brand building and mindshare exercise. Which is completely fine and these things are important. But it’s going to be very hard to quantify in a meaningful way, thus making it nearly impossible to “make a case” for PR to a data-driven decision-maker (think CEO, CMO). Moral of the story? It’s important to categorically understand whether something will have a “qualitative” or “quantitative” metric.

      6. All publishers are not created equal, and it’s impossible to know which outlet will get you the most “ROI” without some historical data or without asking the right question in terms of what you are trying to “measure” and who are you trying to reach. Which again makes the point for gathering data sooner than later. The point: Don’t ask “which publication will get us the most reach or impressions?” But rather “which publication will get the most people to engage with our brand in a meaningful way?” Then A/B/C test the hell out of your hypothesis.

      7. Social media amplification is not always a proxy for a successful PR campaign. It is simply a signal and one particular part of the equation. While social media share counts (except of course, ahhhem, Twitter) are useful for understanding whether your HEADLINE is interesting (did someone say clickbait?), it only tells part of the engagement story.

      If you’re a PR pro who already gets all this, then you are AMAZING and you should ask for a raise! But if you read this, scratch your head and go “Whaaaa?” it’s time for a PR reboot.

      For PR/Comms pros, CMOs, and content producers everywhere…this industry isn’t getting any easier to navigate. If our data tells us anything, it’s that unless you prioritize the auto-aggregation and reporting of your PR efforts you will waste valuable human capital and budget.

      And when you DO finally decide to do the analysis, what you will surely find is that at least 75% to 80% of it has been a complete wash. All that is to say…you’re better off jumping on the bandwagon now.

      In the meantime…we will continue to run towards the light, along with anyone who is willing to join us!

    4. AirPR Fights for “Title Equality”

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      Company Institutes Mandatory “CSO” Position For All

      In an effort to fight for one of the most controversial equality issues of modern day tech culture, Title Equality, technology company AirPR has announced it will change all employee titles to CSO.

      “This was not an easy decision to make, because at first glance it seems to maximize role confusion,” says Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, former CEO, now Chief Skrillah Officer. “We truly feel that given the complicated landscape of titles that currently exists, this would be the best course of action in order to demonstrate how highly we value each member of our team.”

      This reorganization will empower all team members to over-inflate their importance while providing ample opportunity to confuse competitors and incumbents alike.

      “People talk about moving from vertical to horizontal hierarchies, but we feel both of these hierarchies have one too many dimensions,” remarks Ryan Rapp, proud to be the newly appointed Chief Snark Officer.

      “This move is also a strategic one,” adds Rebekah Iliff, who currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer and is the only team member not changing their title. “Retaining and attracting talent means you have to offer something no one else is offering, and this often means thinking outside the proverbial box. What’s more creative than giving everyone a ‘CSO’ title? I mean, I can’t really think of anything.”

      title equality CSOTo better highlight the importance of his role in keeping the company’s office kitchen stocked, Patrick Liang will relinquish his Chief Architect title and will instead become Chief Snack Officer.

      Software engineer Vincent Park has earned the title Chief Save-the-Day Officer for his uncanny ability to sleuth out important intel, which has historically had huge impact on the success of AirPR.

      One of the most recent engineers to join the team, Andres Portillo, will assume the Chief Spanish Officer title, as he has recently agreed to offer private tutoring to anyone in the company who wants to learn Spanish.

      The newest member of AirPR, Andrew Carpenter, was dubbed Chief Sprig Officer as the team is still unclear if he eats lunch from any other vendor. His title will be up for review after he completes his 2nd week of work.

      Leta Soza, the company’s PR Engineer, has affectionately been given the title of Chief Saucy Officer. HR refused to comment on this, but the Chief Spokesperson Officer did say this: “Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade.”

      The company has also extended honorary CSO titles to close confidants and part-time members of the AirPR team. For example, the corporate yoga instructor, Ashley Bening, will now be known as the Chief Stretching Officer; and managing partner of talkTECH, Kristen Tischhauser, who is frequently used for C-suite image consultation, will now be donned Chief Style Officer.

      “Ultimately, we don’t want people to feel confined by their titles,” adds Rajagopal Sathyamurthi, who until today was AirPR’s CTO but now is proudly known as Chief Shar Officer, in honor of his wife. “In fact, we view this move as a decision that will energize all parties and set us apart from the classic C-suite.”

      Some have called this move just shy of brilliant. While others have called it the most ridiculous-slash-inspired April Fool’s Day post to ever hit an industry blog.

      Time will tell, but for now the company is excited to have “Title Equality” – even if only for a day.

    5. Dell, OneSpot, and AirPR on the New PR/Marketing Frontier


      This week we bring you a guest post from Dell’s managing editor, the incomparable Ms. Stephanie Losee. Ms. Losee has been leading the brand journalism/content marketing charge for quite some time, so it only seemed fitting that we turn her loose on two of our favorite CEOs. We hope you enjoy this illuminating exchange!

      Stephanie_Losee_HeadshotHow much longer are PR teams going to talk about “getting a seat at the table” of their organizations’ leadership? Steve Sachs, CEO of OneSpot, and Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, CEO of AirPR are trying to put an end to that conversation. Both companies have launched platforms that attempt to give communications teams the numbers they need to prove their value once and for all.

      Stephanie Losee: What do your platforms do? How do they compare to each other?

      SFM headshotSharam Fouladgar-Mercer: AirPR is a technology platform to increase and measure PR performance. We currently have two products. Marketplace matches technology companies and innovative brands with the top PR professionals and small firms in the country. AirPR’s first-to-market measurement solution, Analyst, uses machine learning and proprietary technology to measure the ROI of PR. The product analyzes digital media activities from traffic to conversion to projected and/or actual revenue in addition to a variety of factors about your brand.

      steve sachs headshotSteve Sachs: OneSpot is a content advertising platform. Many brands have done a great job of creating incredibly valuable, beautiful content, but they often find it’s extraordinarily difficult to get it in front of the right people. We help brands build meaningful audiences for their owned and earned content to drive business results by promoting their content in a very unique way. Our specialty is not just distributing content, but serially placing multiple pieces of content in front of the same user, individually targeted to their demonstrated interests. We call this capability Content Sequencing, and it’s something that only we offer. We’re complementary to AirPR in that we’re focused more on content distribution and sequencing.

      SL: Which problem is your platform trying to solve?


    6. Spin May Suck, But Gini Dietrich Rocks

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      Have you ever had a moment in time where you’re thinking “wow, I’m on top of the world, I really know my $h!t” only to have your ego (rightly) deflated after a serendipitous brush with someone who, in actuality, is much more on top of it than you?

      If that had ever happened to me, it would have likely happened when I came Twitter-face to Twitter-face with one Gini Dietrich.

      Gini is the Angelina Jolie of the PR world IMHO.

      She makes us all look like slackers. Just when you think she can’t possibly do ONE MORE THING a conversation like this happens:

      Me: Hey Gini, whatcha doing?

      Gini: Hi! So great to hear from you! I’m getting ready to speak on a panel in about 5 minutes on the future of PR.

      Me: Oh geeez, should I call you back?

      Gini: No, no, it’s totally fine. Right after that I have to jump on a plane and go to my book signing in New York.

      Me: Oh wow, ok, well thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

      Gini: No problem! It’s absolutely my pleasure. Can you hold for one second please…my husband is on the other line and he’s calling because my son is having this thing, and I need to conduct an emergency tracheotomy via satellite before I jump on stage. BRB.

      Me: (Inner dialogue: I’m a loser) Sure, oh my God, no problem.

      All (slight joking) aside, I caught up with Gini fresh on the heels of her Spin Sucks book launch…a book I highly recommend to anyone looking to get up to speed on this crazy PR evolution we’re experiencing.

      Soak up Gini’s wise words, she’s a class PR act….

      Rebekah Iliff: Let’s start with an simple one: What makes you so passionate about PR?

      Gini Dietrich: I suppose it’s just from being in the industry as long as I have. I mean, what? I’ve only been out of college for five years. 🙂 Truly it’s because I don’t think we do a great job of doing our own PR. There are so many misconceptions about what we do (and don’t do) that it makes me a little nuts. I come from the line of thinking that if you don’t like something, you should do something about it.


    7. How PR is like sailing

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      Early this morning I sat on a dock in the Sausalito bay near my house and watched – not the clouds roll in, but rather – three elderly gentlemen go about their morning boat routines.

      One was probably 80ish years old, the other two likely in their 70s. As they curiously carried large rocks on board, water washed the bows, and slowly sipped coffee while slinging tired legs over the side (all, respectively of course as they weren’t doing these things in lockstep or tandem) I found myself wondering about their stories.

      Was he a widower?

      Perhaps he was a retired exec who finally said “Ca-pooey” with the grind?

      Or maybe he had suffered some great tragedy and felt it was a safer life-bet to disconnect from the world and peacefully spend his days attending to said boat duties?

      When you get into the latter part of your life, if you have spent any time whatsoever pursuing worthy endeavors, building something, attending to a family, the probability that you have at least some interesting stories to tell is high.

      I have often said to entrepreneurs or those wishing to understand how PR works: “PR is like sailing across the ocean. It’s a long game with short periods of chaos and activity to reach the ultimate goal.”

      Let’s remove the conversation about “measuring your PR success” for a moment and look at the big picture. This idea that PR is a core component throughout the life cycle of a company is an important one. The further you “sail” toward your goal of profitability, acquisition, IPO, fill in the blank with whatever that is – the more interesting your story should become.

      If approached thoughtfully and somewhat strategically, that same curiosity you have about the 76 year old man who chooses to spend his days tending to a boat is the same type of curiosity people will have about how and why your company has gotten to where it is.

      Thus, in retrospect, PR becomes a byproduct of the story itself that is unfolding and less about a specific action you are doing. Your story reveals itself and the narrative clips along at a natural pace because you have made good decisions, enlisted the right people, been passionate about your endeavor…and ultimately sailed through the storms and sunny spots with resolve.

      Lend yourself to being the object of curiosity. Build something with substance. Understand where you fit and how your skills and products and solutions solve problems and take away pain.

      This is the soul of PR. This is where we go wrong with PR – because we fail to understand it’s not something we do.

      It’s something we are.

    8. PR Hack: March Replay

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      In case you were too busy last month doing one of the following…

      #1 – tending to client antics

      #2 – chasing journalists around

      #3 – attempting to disconnect only to find that (ironically) a phone call or email you’ve been waiting for only comes through once you’ve decided to walk away from technology for two hours

      #4 – getting your nails done

      Don’t feel bad, release those feelings of FOMO, because we’ve got you covered.

      In a world where very few things actually matter, yet we believe that we are required to read, filter, and digest every RSS feed, annoying Facebook post, and breaking news story, we bring you:

      News you can use.” Or you can just read it and disregard it, but in the very least it will give you insights into high level trends and prime exemplars of PR at its best – and worst.

      Happy information consumption…


      Data Driven Marketing Landscape

      • Great insights from Cision’s SVP of Digital Content, Heidi Sullivan, during The Hub Convene on March 31, 2014:

      “We need to shift the thinking from PR as a cost center to PR as a profit center. In the cost center model we are using AVEs, social media followers and a variety of ‘vanity metrics’ with no real data. In the profit center model, we correlate PR efforts with sales, revenue, and metrics that measure awareness and action.”

      Well Heidi, we just couldn’t agree more. Soft sell, check out our Analyst product.

      3 Winning PR Moves

      • Virgin America literally ups their coolness ante by offering exclusive Humphrey Slocombe ice cream flavors in first class cabins. Additionally, any traveler can score a free scoop by flashing their boarding pass at either HS location in San Francisco through June 30th. NOM.


    9. When in doubt, say it with a GIF

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      They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. I say:

      hell yeah

      In a world where lengthy emails reign supreme, it behooves us all to recognize just how much a single image can convey. If storytelling is at the core of PR, than the ability to tell an entire bite-sized story in a few seconds is pure potency.

      My favored type of visual content bridges the best of photo and video: it’s the GIF. Here are a few reasons why I’m gaga for GIFs and why we could all benefit from integrating them into our communication strategies:

      • Visual content is easier and faster to process
      • There are endless options to express yo’self
      • Does a better job of communicating a point than any acronym (LOL)
      • Keeps emails short, succinct and entertaining

      Let’s shake up the monotony of text-only responses and inject some always-appreciated humor into our business relationships.

      Below are the Top 10 GIFs for your clients and colleagues when there just.are.no.words.

      NOTE: Not all of these are meant for public circulation. Some are merely an affirmation that you’re NOT losing your mind. 😉

      1. When your super smart, hilarious client or colleague one ups you during an email exchange:

      bear clap gif