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Neville Thurlbeck swaps journalism for PR with new role

February 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, PR

Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck is moving from journalism to PR – becoming public relations director for the forces charity Talking2Minds, which helps soldiers, sailors and airmen recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Over the past few weeks, I have been devising a campaign to bring this charity to greater national attention,” Thurlbeck writes on his blog.

“Finally and for the first time in my life some might say, I have found a ‘proper’ job.”

Thurlbeck was arrested as part of the Metropolitan police investigation into alleged phone-hacking, Operation Weeting, last April and is on police bail until next month. He is pursuing an employment tribunal claim against News International.

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Is your blog in this PR database of 1.3 million blogs?

Press officers have long relied on databases of journalists in order to approach them for stories. PRs are now increasingly targeting bloggers, recognising their reach. One start-up has seized on this trend, creating GroupHigh, “a research engine” which crawls 1.3 million blogs in real-time.

Launched in April 2011 in Boulder, Colorado, the software allows PRs to search by keyword, location and blog traffic.

Listed in the Next Web’s top 20 social media tools of 2011, GroupHigh gets a ringing endorsement.

13. GroupHigh.com – If you haven’t tried GroupHigh yet, the next sentence might encourage you to do so. Ready? GroupHigh.com is the best blogger outreach research and engagement tool on the planet. The latest update (version three) makes it even easier for you to discover the most relevant blogs by keyword, style and receptiveness. Brilliant.

PRs who pay for access can ask the database for “a list of every mum blog out there”, co-founder of the start-up Bill Brennan told Journalism.co.uk. You can then ask the software to “tell me the ones that have written about baby formula or home schooling in the last year”.

When I tested the software and searched for “UK bloggers”, left-leaning political blog Liberal Conspiracy was listed at number one (see screen shot below).

The location search works by “triangulation”: crawling the blog, its Facebook page and Twitter feed, Brennan explained.

Users can also filter by page rank, Facebook shares or Twitter followers and export the data to Excel.

Version three of the software lists blogs not bloggers, Brennan said.

We’ll probably add contacts for individual bloggers at each blog as part of version four.

GroupHigh is the co-founders’ second start-up. Their first foray was recipe search engine Recipe Bridge, which they sold to an Australian ad network.

Confident in their ability to build software to crawl the web and realising “it’s difficult to make money [from] advertising”, the pair “started to tap into the blogosphere”, Bill Brennan said, noting a changing trend within the PR industry.

It seemed like blog outreach was really becoming a staple of campaigns for their clients.

Brennan added that PRs were finding the big bloggers, such as TechCrunch, but “they were not tapping in to what we call the ‘magic middle'” of less well-known blogs.

The cost of using the software is likely to preclude bloggers from satisfying their curiosity and checking if their site is crawled. An annual GroupHigh licence for PRs costs $3,000 (£1,926), plus $1,000 (£642) for each additional user.

Below is a video demo of how GroupHigh works.

GroupHigh 3 Video Overview from Andy Theimer on Vimeo.

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Five tips for writing an effective press release

December 7th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in PR

A catchy headline and easy-to-read presentation is often the deciding factor in a press release being read and followed up by a journalist.

Here are five tips for grabbing a journalist’s attention:

1. Limit headlines to 65 characters

This excellent idea was proposed by Chris Lake from Econsultancy who proposed the 65 character rule for headlines for all news stories.

It makes sense if headlines are 65 characters or less for several reasons: for Google search, Google News and for Twitter.

You can read Lake’s full explanation on how to optimise headlines using the 65 character rule at this link.

2. Three reasons to present a story as a list

1. Lists also do well, particularly on social media.

2. They encourage clicks. For example, would you be more likely to be tempted to click on a headline that reads “10 technical Twitter tips for journalists” or “Journalists can set up RSS feeds for tweets”.

3. They are easy to scan and read when in a hurry

3. Use words like “how” and “why”

Writing a post for Poynter earlier this year, Matt Thompson provides 10 questions to help you write better headlines.

He makes some excellent points, including this piece of advice:

Could it benefit from one of these 10 words?

When I’m stuck on a headline, I often refer back to this list of words: Top, Why, How, Will, New, Secret, Future, Your, Best, Worst.

Each of them has different merits. Many of them reinforce the advice I offer above. “Why” and “how”, for example, help to frame the headline as explanation (“when” and “what” also work well for this). “Top”, “best” and “worst” are natural partners with a numbered headline. Some of them tap into universal desires: We all want access to “secret” knowledge, and we all want to know the “future”. Words like “your” help me to reframe wonky, technical headlines around what they might mean to the user.

4. Consider writing a “how to” guide

“How to” guides work well online. People often search for an answer to problem and the search engine returns a guide as a result.

For example: How to: write the perfect press release for journalists

5. Consider presenting your release as a Q&A

For example: Q&A: Audioboo founder on the riots, Libya and ‘friendly competitor’ SoundCloud or Q&A: MediaCooler, a platform for freelance journalists to upload and sell features

This helps journalists to scan information and jump to points they are interested in.

Advised reading: How to write headlines that work for SEO

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Wired offers creative commons images in exchange for link

Director Tim Burton surrounded by dictaphones at Comic Con 2009, one of 50 images made available by Wired as part of its new creative commons plan. Image: Wired.com

Wired.com has made what looks like a canny move in deciding to license its own images under creative commons in return for a mention and a link.

The technology site doesn’t currently sell the images, so the commons licence will cost it nothing but will probably generate some useful publicity today, like this, plus traffic and SEO in the long run.

See 50 images made available immediately here.

Wired hasn’t stipulated where the link and mention have to go, so presumably it’s fine to put it either right next to the image or bury it at the bottom of your blog post.

The licence also allows users to edit images, as I have with the one above. Just a simple crop here, but mashups and other edits are also fine.

The move also raises a long-standing lack of clarity over the CC “non-commercial” licence. When we use CC images on Journalism.co.uk, we usually steer clear of images marked “not for commercial use” because we carry ads on the site and the site is a profitable entity.

But the distinction isn’t as clear cut as that according to some. Nieman Journalism Lab’s Joshua Benton has an in-depth post about the CC issue, read it here.

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Government launches ‘virtual media centre’ for 2012 London Olympics

October 25th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Events, PR

The government has launched the first few web-pages which will in time form its online media centre for the 2012 Games, giving the press a “single point of access for all government-related news stories”.

Content offered on the pages will include background information, logistics information and an image library. In a press release, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has responsibility for the Games, said:

With London 2012 set to be the biggest media event in history, the UK Government is doing all it can to ensure the world’s media have everything they need.

Delivering an outstanding Olympic Games is not just about building world class facilities and infrastructure; it’s also about making sure the media can bring the sporting, cultural and human interest stories to homes across the world as quickly as possible.

These pages, plus the Government Olympic Communication Media Centre next year, will play crucial parts in making this Games the easiest to access for the media and their audiences. Between now and the start of the Games we will continue to work with media partners to ensure we’re doing all we can to meet their needs.”

The pages went live yesterday (24 October) and journalists can now sign-up and subscribe to the news alerts at www.culture.gov.uk/2012newsroom.

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Financial Times: James Murdoch’s spokesperson resigned amid phone-hacking scandal

September 27th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, PR

The Financial Times has reported that “one of James Murdoch’s closest advisers” has resigned. Alice Macandrew was Murdoch’s spokesperson but reportedly handed her notice in back in July.

She becomes one of the first senior executives to quit News Corp voluntarily over disagreements with the company’s approach, which saw the publisher contest phone-hacking lawsuits brought by celebrities and other public figures in 2010 and early 2011 and close the News of the World in July.

News Corporation has declined to comment.

Read the full report here (requires registration).

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FT study exposes problems in finding media information on corporate websites

August 31st, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Business, Editors' pick, PR

A study by the Financial Times and web effectiveness experts Bowen Craggs has found many corporate websites fail to provide journalists with information and serve the media in a useful and effective way – which is often not in the company’s favour in terms of generating positive press coverage.

The study finds “many press offices simply do not see the online medium as an important” and this article (part paywall) in the FT theorises that this could be as many press officers are former journalists who left the industry before the advent of online and social media.

The FT Bowen Craggs Index looks at:

How well a site caters to four areas of journalistic enquiry: the news release service and archiving; the ready availability of good quality contact information; the range of background about the company and its industry; and the provision of publication quality imagery.

News release service

The FT article states journalists “do not want to be spoon fed”:

Give them a ready-made story, and they will either ignore it, or look for a way to put a different twist on it (not necessarily in the company’s favour). The last thing they want is to write the same story as other people. What they do want is leads, which explains the keenness with which they have taken to Twitter. Companies need to understand Twitter – both to feed journalists leads and to get early warning that a nasty news storm is about to blow in.

Contact information and background about the company and its industry

The FT article states:

[Journalists] tend to be in a hurry, and impatient. Their inclination is often to pick up the phone rather than trawl a site. Companies can make themselves unpopular by failing to make press contacts easy to find.

Provision of images

The study found that “one of the most significant trends this year comes from the image library metric”:

The big move forward is the increasing use of Flickr as a complementary library: see for example Nestlé and Novartis.

A remarkable number of companies do not provide an image library at all – almost a quarter of the companies in the Index, including most of the Chinese companies but also a slew of banks – Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Santander, Westpac and more. Why? If you do not provide images yourselves, media organisations will surely go to your rivals or to a library.

German company Siemans comes out on top and is heralded as an example of best practice of serving the media. It has an index of 28. An example of a lower score is Johnson and Johnson with an index of nine.

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How not to fall for a hoax like ‘IE6 users are dumb’

August 5th, 2011 | 3 Comments | Posted by in PR, Press freedom and ethics

First journalists fell for made-up stories sent out by a fake PR to highlight to practice of churnalism, now news outlets – including the BBC, Daily Mail and Telegraph – have published a hoax story that users of Internet Explorer 6 are dumb.

Here are five questions journalists should ask themselves in order to avoid falling for a hoax.

1. Does the story sounds possible? Journalists ask questions and should look at data with a critical eye. If presented with a press release saying the IE6 users are dumb, ask yourself how likely that really is.

Why do people use the an old version of Internet Explorer? Because they work for firms that do not grant them administrator rights to update software? Because they are less experienced web users and don’t know how to? Because they are older users who are less likely to trust updates and downloads?

2. When was the web domain of the PR company registered? A website such as who.is will give you a date of registration, the address where the site is registered, a company number and server details. (You can click the image below to see the results.)

3. Are the photos ripped from another website?  The hoaxer who wrote the “IE6 users are dumb” press release included employee photographs on the fake company website ripped from a legitimate French business.

You can run an image search – or even a reverse image search – by using Google Image Search or TinEye.

4. Does the phone number given on the press release appear elsewhere on the web? Google the phone number on the site or press release.

5. Does the address listed on the website, press release and domain registration exist? Enter the postcode into the Royal Mail address finder.

The hoaxer – a developer called Tarandeep Gill who set up the hoax to highlight his frustrations of people using IE6 – has published the tell-tale signs that should have uncovered the hoax in five minutes

1.The domain was registered on 14 July 2011;

2. The test that was mentioned in the report, “Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (IV) test” is a copyrighted test and cannot be administered online;

3. The phone number listed on the report and the press release is the same listed on the press releases/whois of my other websites. A google search reveals this;

4. The address listed on the report does not exist;

5. I copy/pasted most of the material from “Central Test” [the legitimate Paris-based firm] and got lazy to even change the pictures;

6. The website is made in WordPress. Come on now!

7. I am sure, my haphazardly put together report had more than one grammatical mistakes [sic];

6. There is a link to our website AtCheap.com in the footer.

Journalists should also be aware of the “churn engine to distinguish journalism from churnalism“, launched by the Media Standards Trust in February. Click the photo below to go to the churnalism tool, paste the contents of a press release and in cases where more than 20 per cent of an article and press release overlap, the search engine will highlight it as a potential example of ‘churn’ and give you overlap as a percentage.

 

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Review: QuickSurvey relaunches online tool

Online survey tool QuickSurvey has relaunched after a full makeover.

The tool, developed by market research firm Toluna, offers news organisations the opportunity to carry out market research using an online community of people who are ready and willing to respond.

It has obvious uses for businesses, including media organisations, and potential for PRs, but our review of the software struggled to see how it can assist journalists.

Testing out QuickSurvey

I decided to create a sample survey to test out the technology by asking QuickSurvey to find out how often people buy a local newspaper, why they buy one, how often they read local news online and what they would like to see from their local newspaper. Within an hour I had received 250 responses at a cost of around £200.

Click here for the results of my example QuickSurvey on local newspapers. You can play around with the data, graphs and pie charts and see a long list of things people would like to see from their local newspaper.

How does QuickSurvey work?

When I started playing around with QuickSurvey I thought of surveying a hand-picked group of respondents. For example, I thought I could ask 20 news sites what percentage of their web hits came via Twitter, which had the potential to result in a news story.

QuickSurvey is not the best tool to use for this as it doesn’t allow you to enter figures as an answer, such as percentages. I soon realised that QuickSurvey’s main strength is the community of online respondents who willing to answer your questions.

You decide on how many people you want to complete the survey, what type of person (you could pick an all-male survey, for example) and, if carrying out a survey with your own respondents, you can ask them to include an email address (information which, like the research carried out, is yours to keep).

You can embed the active survey on your news site, email it to particular contacts or, if you want to use the Toluna community, you can allow it to be displayed on Toluna only.

If you are asking your own respondents to answer questions QuickSurvey is free, but if you ask the Toluna community you pre-pay for credits and are charged for the number of clicks from the community. One credit is deducted for every one person who answers one question.

I had 250 respondents answer four questions costing me 1,000 credits. A pay-as-you-go deal for 1,500 credits costs £240.

Results were returned in minutes and it was interesting to see people responding in real time. The company has a million poll rates a day globally and 2,000 responses can be gathering in eight to 12 hours so it offers a fast response to market research.

When your survey is completed, in less than an hour in my case, you can download reports, including word clouds of the answers.

The verdict: QuickSurvey is incredibly easy to use and within an hour you will have some very usable feedback and market research at a cost of around £200.

Not allowing people to respond using percentages was slight problem, as was not being able to select a very specific geographical area, like a newspaper’s distribution area. Another obvious problem is the respondents, who are all web savvy by nature, which skews results when asking a question about whether they read news online.

Is it of use to the news industry? No doubt there are uses in gathering data by using QuickSurvey.

Is it of use to journalists? Probably not, unless they have the money to pay for large surveys to provide research for a story.

Is it of use to PR professionals? Almost certainly. I can envisage a press release starting with the line: “A new survey shows 90 per cent of women think…”

Tips on creating a survey using QuickSurvey

Be short and relevant:

  • Give your survey a name that speaks to the audience. ‘Local Newspaper Survey’ is better than ‘Sarah’s Test Survey’, for example;
  • Ideally opt for three to eight questions (although you can include up to 15);
  • Short questions, ideally 10-15 words or less.

Keep answers simple:

  • Fewer than 12 answers – longer answer lists are a turn off;
  • Give options to answer ‘none of these’, ‘other’ or ‘don’t know';
  • Use logos, videos and images where possible – all can be seamlessly integrated into the tool.

Be clear:

  • Precise vocabulary;
  • Avoid double negatives;
  • Be unambiguous.

Stay neutral and cautious:

  • Use neutral words to avoid bias;
  • Randomise answers for brands, products or services (this stops the top brand or option being overly represented in the results, as people have a natural tendency to pick the answers near the top);
  • Use generic questions as screening questions when targeting specific profiles – for example if you’re looking to talk to Toyota drivers, don’t ask ‘Do you own a Toyota? yes/no’ but ask which of the following cars do they own – and give a list of manufacturers.

Always test your survey:

  • Get someone else to check your survey makes sense and spell check it.
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Community Newswire service to close due to funding cuts

March 30th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Media releases, PR

Community Newswire, a news service which works in partnership with the Press Association to assist community groups in getting stories in the media, will close tomorrow due to a cut in funding.

The Cabinet Office has withdrawn funding from the group following October’s government spending review.

The service, which is run by the Media Trust, encourages community groups to contact the organisation and stories are then written up by PA journalists and sent via a PA feed to newsrooms.

In a statement on its website, the Media Trust said it is seeking new funding and hopes to reinstate the service.

hatip: HoldtheFrontPage

 

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