Over the years, I've had a number of people - at the office and in other areas of my life - ask for my advice on everything from PR to online content development and social media engagement. Most of them aren't looking to hire me, just to glean some quick advice. So I thought it might be helpful to share a few pieces of advice about media strategy and PR. Of course, if anyone wants a more comprehensive assessment of their current media strategy, or to work on particular elements of their media outreach, my consulting services are available at reasonable rates.
Whether you're promoting an event that's happened, or doing strategic outreach to bolster audience support, here are 7 basic elements to consider and tips to keep in mind:
1. Content: It's cliched to say that content is king, but content is the storytelling core of your strategy. The content will create a connection - intellectual or emotional - to the work you do. Make your first sentence engaging, and give the reader something they can’t find anywhere else. This means not recycling the two paragraphs you've used in promoting the event or experience – it’s the story of that event or experience: why is it important, what is the backstory, which fascinating folks are involved...take the reader behind the scenes and give insider information that only attendees would have experienced. Begin with a killer sentence – a riveting question or a surprising quote – once you get people hooked, they’ll read on to find out more about what that first intriguing sentence means.
2. Length: Unless your Communications Department instructs you otherwise, I suggest a length of 400 words (maximum) for blog posts. Originally, about 400 words was be the maximum that would appear on a computer screen. Computers (and screen fonts) come in all sizes these days, but with the human attention span being fragmented, keeping it short and riveting is still a solid strategy. It also keeps you on track, making sure you use words and quotes that count, and helps increase the chance that people will read to the end.
3. Timing: If there’s a fast turnaround needed for a blog post the morning after an event, the best way to do it is to pre-write the bulk of it. This may sound dishonest, but PR people do it all the time – they create skeleton posts with all the stuff that you know ahead of time and is not going to change (the where, what, who, when and why). Then leave spaces for things that personalize the experience and paint “what really happened in the room” - quotes from speakers or attendees, surprises in terms of attendees or reactions or questions, details of the kinds of discussions and partnerships that ensued. The next day, fill in the blanks, massage the language so it doesn’t seem like a composite post, and you’ll have a compelling, authentic post, posted in record time. People will marvel at your efficiency, and you don't have to reveal this secret to anyone. :)
4. Tone: Keep the “inside scoop” approach in mind when writing – so it’s not just “this happened, and it brought a lot of things together, and it was interesting,” but really capture the feel of who was there, how they were connecting with the speaker or presentation, and report some of the more interesting comments that go a little deeper and tell a better story than “this was a great event and I hope to attend another one soon.” The “insider info” approach is like crack to people who write and read blogs - even though it’s a calculated strategy, it’s still authentic and special, and that’s what people want. Depending on your organization's tone, you may opt for more or less formal, but the voice should be factual, authoritative and relatable.
5. Images: Any photos accompanying online content should be dynamic. People sitting at tables is one of the least compelling images you can submit. Get up close, take “action photos” – smiling attendees having animated conversations goes a long way image-wise. And if you have access to photos taken by participants, ask participants if you can use their photos - that's another opportunity for engagement, and it might also help you share the event's story digitally.
6. Distribution: When the post goes live, do not depend on Communications or PR to distribute it. This is your work. You know where your audience lives, so make sure they see it by Tweeting, FBing and promoting it in your enewsletters. Send to your superusers who have wide networks and are fluent in social media – they’ll help the post get seen.
7. Social media strategy: Social media should be part of the discussions early and often – as you’re visualizing an event or initiative, integrate social media into that plan – it will help you later.
Do you have other tips to recommend? Feel free to leave them in the comments section. Want to drill deeper? Let's set up a business call to talk.