PR Best Practices Can Restore Public Trust in the Post-Truth Era

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


It is not business as usual in the media industry.

Some say we’re in a post-truth era. One thing is for sure: the role and honesty of spokespeople, the press and state-sponsored fake news has us all talking. And, it turns out, this controversy has had an enormous impact on public trust.

Trust levels in the U.S. and around the world are measured by the Edelman Trust Barometer. This annual report provides an in-depth analysis of trust in the U.S. breaking it down by trust in the media, CEOs, businesses, experts, NGOs and more. This year, the Edelman Trust Barometer showed a crisis in trust in America. The deep plunge recorded year over year was akin to a stock market crash.

It found that  63 percent of the U.S. general population struggles to distinguish between what is real news and what is fake. Trust in U.S.-based companies dropped from 55 to 50 percent continuing a decline that began in 2014. Trust in NGOs fell from 58 to 49 percent.

This is the environment in which public relations professionals, their employers and clients are communicating. Information from most sources is greeted with skepticism or outright disbelief by the public.

So, here we are. The scarcest commodity in the U.S. today is trust.

Last week, I interviewed Lynn Walsh, project manager of the Trusting News project to find out how the media is working to restore trust with its readers, viewers and listeners. This week, I’m asking how PR pros can work to restore trust with the public?

The answer is to stick to PR best practices and good media relations fundamentals and to recommit ourselves to the crucial role that public relations best practices play in building and restoring trust.

Let’s Refresh on Media Relations’ Primary Goals

Media relations strategies typically start with two high-level goals in mind.

The first is to raise awareness of a brand’s story and messages with its target audiences through well-placed articles, features and other media mentions.

Since earned media cannot be bought, unlike paid media (advertising), it is more credible—with the public and with Google too. Have you noticed that news articles in major media outlets have a much higher search engine ranking? That’s because the websites that they’re published on have a much higher search engine authority, so Google ranks them higher. (This can cut both ways: it’s awesome when the news in such links is great, and terrible when it’s bad.)

The second goal is to influence perceptions and preserve or build an organization’s reputation.

This starts with ensuring media coverage is accurate and fair. It continues with proactive strategies to communicate a brand’s excellent financial performance, corporate social responsibility program, product innovation or corporate culture.

As brand storytellers, the PR team is approaching these communications as an ongoing process or narrative and not as a one-off event or announcement.

When both of these goals are achieved, the news stories topping your brand’s Google search results are the stories you’re most proud of and not the cringe-worthy ones. Plus, you maintain your organization’s trust with its stakeholders (customers, employees, constituents, vendors, partners, patients, donors—whoever you need to keep onside in order to operate effectively).

In short, PR’s first goal is to get you into the media spotlight and its second goal is to ensure, once you’re there, that you’re lit to show your best side so that your audience applauds, or at least understands, your behaviors and decisions versus throwing tomatoes at you.

Along the way, we apply media relations best practices: knowing what’s newsworthy, building good media relationships and being authentic, timely, accurate and transparent.

Truth and Accuracy are PR Best Practices

We are also ethical. Most PR professionals are members of the Public Relations Society of America. As such, we are expected to uphold the society’s professional code of ethics (PDF). This means that we are advocates for our clients and respect their confidential or privileged information, while also being honest, accurate and truthful in our representations to the public. We take responsibility for the authenticity of the information we represent in our communications and outreach.

It’s not an easy task. Public relations is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most stressful jobs in America, and it’s not a thankful task to be the media spokesperson when the chips are down or the heat is on. (That’s one big reason why so many of us appreciate our thankful clients and employers so much.)

But, here’s the point of this refresher. Ethical PR that follows PR best practices like transparency, accuracy, authenticity and timely communication is what builds trust.

And trust matters. It has an ROI. There’s even a name for it: brand equity. When brands and people are trusted, they’re valued. When things go wrong, trusted people and brands get the benefit of the doubt. When you look these benefits, an investment in PR best practices makes incredibly good sense.

If this resonates with you as either a PR pro or someone who can influence a company’s PR strategy, I encourage you to fight for PR best practices, to remember that PR is not happy talk and spin. It is also tough talk and the hard work and soul searching that sometimes come when tough conversations are required with your stakeholders.

Remind your colleagues in the C-suite and at the board room table that when they hold strategic communications to the same high standard as you do, the public will hold your brand in higher regard. And when your brand consistently communicates with transparency and truthfulness, you’ll earn the public’s trust. Trusted brands have higher valuations because trust is a precious commodity. So, stand up for standards and stand up for trust.

 

5 Questions for Journalism Expert Lynn Walsh on Trusting News

Lynn Walsh Trusting News project

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


The public’s lack of trust in news sources is not just a problem for journalists. It is clearly one for public relations professionals and the organizations that they represent too.

To understand what got us to this low point in trusting news and what might be done to restore trust in the media and information, I spoke to Lynn Walsh of the Trusting News project.Lynn Walsh Trusting News

Lynn spent the first 10 years of her career as an investigative journalist and most recently oversaw the NBC San Diego investigative team. She served as president of the Society of Professional Journalists last year regularly speaking on and advocating for journalism ethics and press freedoms. She teaches journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University and recently, took on her new role at Trusting News. It perfectly blends her journalism and digital media experience with her passion for a healthy, thriving free press.

As project manager for the Trusting News project, Lynn works with newsrooms and journalism schools in the U.S. and Canada to conduct news engagement experiments and research leading to new best practices intended to restore trust between news media and news consumers.

Alongside project director and Poynter Institute adjunct faculty member, Joy Mayer, Lynn studies how people decide news is credible and shares that knowledge and actionable strategies that newsrooms can implement. Currently, close to 30 newsrooms are trialing these new best practices with plans to roll out the strategies that show the most promise for change.

Trusting News is funded by the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund.

  1. What is the mission of the Trusting News project?

Our goal is to rebuild trust between journalists and the public and we do that by working with newsrooms helping them be transparent in their reporting and encouraging engagement with their readers, listeners and viewers.

  1. What is driving the lack of trust in media?

The responsibility is on both sides. Both news media and news consumers have been struggling to adapt to the digital news environment and how it changed the relationship between journalists and the public.

Lynn Walsh Trusting News projectIn the past, consumers of news didn’t really have that many options. They got the newspaper from their doorstep or turned on their TV, and the news was delivered to them. Now, they also discover news digitally when they’re searching online or using social media.

News has also become less of a one-way delivery system. People can now respond to your content.

News organizations didn’t do a good enough job of adapting to the changes created by this new digital format. They continued to deliver the news in the format they always have.

For instance, we didn’t do a good job of labeling the content when we moved it over to the digital space—is this a news article, a blog post or an opinion piece? People have no way of telling what kind of content they are discovering digitally and how to filter it.

The public also does not understand what journalist do, how they do their jobs and how the news media works. That means that people aren’t prepared and equipped to decide whether what they’re seeing is news or someone’s opinion.

  1. What can the media do about that?

I think from my personal experience dealing with members of the public, it’s about having conversations, explaining why we chose to cover a story or interview an individual on a subject matter, why we blurred a photo or didn’t use someone’s name. Explain the decisions we make every day.

Labeling is key here. If you have a story that’s an opinion story, don’t call it an op-ed since people don’t know what that is. Label it as opinion. Be clear about labels and make sure that label follows that story online and when shared on social media. Be clear about labels for the people we as broadcast journalists put on air too—not just calling everyone an expert. For instance, what is an analyst? Are they a reporter or giving an opinion?

We need to be honest with our viewers when we are putting someone on who is just sharing an opinion.

  1. How do you see this trust issue impacting professional communicators like PR people and spokespeople?

Unfortunately, where we really are now and have been for a year or more is that people just don’t trust what they’re hearing and reading. It doesn’t just apply when it’s coming from a news organization. It can be coming from a press release on someone’s website or a blog post. People are questioning everything and searching to find information that can disprove it. So, the trust issue doesn’t just apply to news organizations. It applies to all information.

People don’t trust facts anymore. People think that facts can be debated. It extends beyond news.

  1. How do you see things five years from now? Better or worse?

I really hope that five years from now I’m not having to teach people how to build trust, be transparent and build credibility with their audience. I hope we begin to be open about how we are telling our stories, why we chose this person to talk to and not be hesitant to talk to people who are critical of our reporting. If we didn’t include something in a story, I hope that we’d be comfortable going back and telling that side of the story or incorporating that missing viewpoint.

This is a new kind of storytelling. It’s things we’ve always done but just in a more transparent way.

To get there, we need some of the biggest news organizations to buy in. When you look at 24-hour news organizations, this isn’t happening. We need CNN and Fox News to start labeling stories and their experts and pundits properly. Hopefully, they will do a better job of separating for the public what is news content and what is opinion.

So far, that’s not happening.

 

Immersive Storytelling is the Future of Public Relations

future of journalism talk by Robert Hernandez


By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


The future of public relations and journalism are two sides of the same coin, and both are experiencing powerful technological advances that are reshaping how the media and professional communicators tell and distribute stories. While these changes have disrupted old business models and best practices, they’ve also benefited people by making it easier to access and consume the news and content they want, whenever and wherever they want.

The next wave of innovation is immersive storytelling and it’s poised to take content producers and consumers well beyond the two-dimensional experience of today’s news reports or public relations’ white papers, case studies, press releases and b-roll.

What Does the Future Look Like for Journalism?

There are already more mobile phones on the planet than toothbrushes or working toilets. USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Associate Professor Robert Hernandez shared this insight to provide context during his opening remarks April 28 to the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2018 regional conference hosted by the Greater Los Angeles SPJ chapter.

The annual conference attracted hundreds of journalists from across the southwest to the Universal City Hilton, and (W)right On Communications was proud to sponsor Hernandez’s presentation, “What Does the Future Look Like for Journalism?”

Well regarded in media circles as an academic and as a veteran of web journalism, Hernandez urged journalists to become early adopters of new technologies and embrace it for storytelling. It’s a message that holds true for PR pros, content marketers and brand journalists concerned about the future of public relations.

Hernandez pointed out that TV took 38 years and radio 14 years to reach 50 million users but the web took only four, the iPod three and Facebook two to reach the same milestone. Technology is changing how we communicate and doing so at a breakneck pace.

On May 1, Facebook announced that it is introducing augmented reality into its Messenger platform. Soon, Facebook advertisers will be able to provide filters in Messenger that potential customers can apply to experience their product—like a new lip color, furniture or fashion—before buying.

On April 30, NBCUniversal and Google announced that they’ll be partnering to produce original virtual reality content for the NBC, Bravo and Syfy networks including NBC’s Saturday Night Live and Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules, which already has some 360 video available on YouTube. Will virtual reality content for NBC News be close behind?

My guess is that Hernandez would hope so. He urged news media to jump on these new technologies—including immersive 360-degree video, augmented reality and virtual reality platforms—and begin using them as storytelling platforms.

“If you think this is the final form, you’re fooling yourself,” said Hernandez of today’s mobile phones, mobile cameras and social media platforms.

The Future of Public Relations is Tied to New Storytelling Tech Too

Public relations professionals—particularly content marketers—should also be experimenting with these platforms and preparing for the near future of public relations where immersive storytelling becomes mainstream. We have the opportunity to adopt and adapt immersive platforms to communicate not just key messages but key experiences. Imagine how much more persuasive such tools would be in motivating a belief or behavior from your target audience.

And imagine how media outlets would appreciate content like 360 video or interactive augmented reality graphics to support a press announcement or event coverage.

With so much content competing to engage consumers and B2B customers today, it only makes sense that communicators adopt the most engaging and breakthrough new technologies to raise their content and messages above the din.

As Hernandez noted, for cash-strapped newsrooms, this technology doesn’t have to be expensive. He shared a VR tip sheet that includes apps to convert your mobile phone to a virtual reality recording device, several 360 video cameras and VR headsets at varying price points.

Hernandez heads up a VR journalism program at the Annenberg School, creatively named JOVRNALISM. He and his students have produced 360 video reports from places like Friendship Park at the border between San Diego and Tijuana and Korea’s demilitarized zone.

In this video, you can use your tablet or smart phone screen to explore a 360-degree view of the DMZ and listen while South Korea’s loudspeakers blast Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” across the border.

Media outlets on the forefront of augmented reality include The New York Times. Hernandez cited their AR piece on David Bowie, which documents his costumes and style through the ages. Open The New York Times mobile app or navigate to their mobile website and search “augmented reality” on your iPhone or Android device to see and experience and be inspired by these incredible AR features.

Hernandez described AR as a “new type of journalism.” Here’s how The New York Times described it in their AR guide for readers:

“If photography freed journalists to visually capture important moments, and video allowed us to record sight, sound and motion, then our augmented reality feature goes a step further, making flat images three-dimensional. AR brings our report to you in a way that makes it more immediate than ever before. Imagine if journalists applied this technology to stories on the homeless and other topics where immersive technology can bring an experience to life.”

            – Your Guide to Augmented Reality in The Times

Imagine what content marketers can do when they deliver an immersive case study experience for their targets rather than another six-page white paper.

It’s not difficult to see how immersive storytelling could more effectively drive behavior change or swell a nonprofits’ donor rolls with an immersive public service campaign. Imagine using virtual reality to put your target audience in the passenger seat next to a distracted or drunk driver, in a homeless shelter, in an animal shelter or in a wilderness refuge being threatened by deforestation or climate change.

With augmented reality, imagine that for every donation of $100 to a wildlife cause, an app creates a 360 video of you surrounded by elephants at a watering hole or sitting with a panda bear in a tree and gives you the option to share it on your social networks. On the other end of the spectrum, picture an immersive corporate annual report that takes shareholders into the boardroom, onto the factory floor and into the field.

A new frontier is opening up that incorporates sensors with immersive technologies, says Hernandez. He has tried on a virtual glove that allows you to feel things in a 3D world—from a spider running across your hand to a cup of hot coffee. While this technology is still in the lab, it’s what’s coming next.

Hernandez didn’t omit the ethical questions that these immersive storytelling technologies prompt. In the immediate future, these technologies will be used to manipulate reality for “fake news” and misinformation where virtual reality cannot be distinguished from truth or actual reality. This is a scary downside, given how susceptible to fake news and conspiracy theories the public has shown itself to be.

Just like data privacy, cybersecurity breaches and social media bots; manipulation of virtual reality is another threat that communicators, journalists and society will need to navigate, but the sooner we adopt and become proficient in these technologies, the sooner we can put them to use for better storytelling experiences and the future of public relations and journalism.

“Content is king. This is still holding true. It doesn’t matter what technology we use. It’s how we use it to tell stories. It’s your attitude as a journalist and how you view that technology that determines the future of journalism.”

           – Robert Hernandez, USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism

If your attitude as a communicator is one of curiosity and comfort with change (and I hope it is!), then immersive storytelling technologies should excite you about the future of public relations and the new frontiers they will open for our craft.

Marketing Meets Dating

By Ronda Williams—Marketing and Administrative Coordinator

Twitter: @R_Williams11


Let’s cut to the chase and dive into the juicy stuff! If you haven’t noticed, dating and marketing have a lot of similarities. The two worlds could almost be walking hand-and-hand. Let’s see why marketing and dating make a great pair.

Marketing meets Dating…

When you think of that first date, what comes to mind? When you think about marketing for a new client or company, what comes to mind? You guessed it, branding!

Branding… funny mad men advertising social marketing GIF

Business Dictionary defines branding as, “The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind.” 

You must first know your brand before developing a strategy. Identifying who and what the brand is in your market should be a key component. Your brand while dating is crucial as well! “First impressions are everything,” is what you should think about when preparing for that first date or new business venture.

eharmony advises these three basics to make a first good impression:

  1. Dress well (Custom brand design)
  2. Personal grooming (Choosing your target audience)
  3. Arrive early or on time (Timing the brand launch perfectly)

Strategy…Image result for strategy

According to the
book, “Marketing Insights from A to Z” strategy is, “the glue that aims to build and deliver a consistent and distinctive value proposition to your target.”

Developing a marketing strategy that is customized and unique is a goal that we strive to achieve for our client partners. As a marketing expert, you not only want to deliver wins for your client but you also want to create a trusting relationship with their audience.

Dating is all about finding a winning strategy to land that special man or woman! Playing hard to get might be a part of your strategy or waiting two days before calling. Whatever your strategy is while dating I’m sure you have one.

Physical Attraction…

When making the decision about who to date, most people encounter the question of, “is there attraction present?”

Madeleine A Fugère Ph.D. says, Physical attractiveness may serve as a gatekeeper directing us toward partners who are healthy and age appropriate.”

With that said, dating someone that you have no attraction to is not a good idea.G1ft3d art glitch glitch art g1ft3d GIF

Physical attraction in marketing is being able to develop content that will attract your target audience for that brand of interest.

Darren Pitt, a Social Media Lead Generation Specialist for LinkedIn says, “an effective attraction marketing system requires you as an internet marketer to offer information that will attract potential customers with an aim of establishing your expertise in a particular niche.”

Now that you have a little taste of how marketing and dating make a great pair, I hope you will be incorporating these into your next marketing opportunity or that spring fling!

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me via email at: Twilliams@wrightoncomm.com or (858) 755-5411. Happy relations!

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3 PR & Marketing Tactics to Dump in 2017

By Julie Wright—President and Founder

Twitter: @JulieWright


Out with the old. In with the new! What stale PR and marketing tactics will you shed in 2017?

I’ve got a few on my naughty list this holiday season. They’re activities that perhaps at one time were strategic but now are automatic things PR and marketing professionals are doing without really thinking. Isn’t it time to leave these three things behind?

  1. Your Press Releases No One Reads

Away documents Free PhotoIt’s well past time to ditch the traditional press release.

If you want media coverage, then spend your energy and budget on developing your brand’s story and pitching it to a carefully cultivated list of media targets.

Just as advertising is the price you pay for being unremarkable, press releases are what you do when you don’t have a real PR strategy.

They’re a PR crutch and are often abused by people who think press releases are public relations.

In 2017, empower your agency or PR department to generate media coverage with creative ideas and storytelling. Focus on your communications goals and then determine if press releases are really going to help you achieve them. If not, get creative and strategic with the tactics that will actually impact your communications and business goals.

While they may not generate media coverage, you can be strategic in your use of press releases.  Use them to raise online visibility for your brand or key content to spur discovery through keyword analysis and search engine-optimized content, and to share exceptional visual content such as great photos, videos and graphics.

Just don’t continue putting them out as a proxy for a real PR strategy.

  1. Your Facebook Page that No One Sees

Facebook social media Free Vector How much time does your team spend drafting and posting content to Facebook? Now how many likes or comments does that content get you? How much traffic to your website? How much brand engagement and equity is all this effort producing?

Be honest with yourself. Is it worth it? What would happen to your business if you dumped your Facebook page? Or your Twitter account, for that matter?

If you’re doing it right, hopefully the answer would be “quite a lot.” Website visits would fall, event attendance dip and top of mind awareness would suffer.

If you can’t answer that question satisfactorily, take a hard look at what you’ve been doing and ask yourself why? Do you know what impact you want this activity to have on your business?

Now flip things around and pretend that Facebook was your only channel for reaching your audience. How would you approach it differently? Would you do more research and target better? Would you dedicate more budget to advertising? Would you study what type of content performs best?

So develop a plan in 2017 to do social media right. Or stop doing it.

Set goals for your social media activity that will support the impact you want to see for your business and then produce the content, schedule, promotion and targeting that will reach them.

  1. The Content You Spend More Time Marketing than Your Actual Product or Service

I get the concept behind content marketing. Provide people with helpful, well-packaged information that draws them in and predisposes them to like, trust and value your business so they’ll consider doing business with you.

Time and money Free Vector Do this on a massive scale and you’ll have a lead generation machine, the theory goes. With every blog post or white paper, an email has been captured so that the prospect can be continuously marketed with more friendly, helpful emails, blog posts and white papers.

That said, it’s a shit-ton of work to do this right. And if you’re the prospect, you could now have five or 10 companies trying to move you through their content marketing funnel. Your email inbox will implode!

So how much of your marketing department’s time or agency budget do you want to spend generating and marketing helpful blog posts, infographics, videos, white papers and case studies, and how much do you want to spend actually marketing your product or service to your target buyers?

I may be out of fashion here, but content marketing has to have jumped the shark a few years ago.

“With over 90% of B2B marketers cranking out ‘content,’ prospective buyers are inundated with information.”

How many buyers will be saying to themselves in 2017, “Boy, if only I could find more content?” I’m skeptical. Content is important but it is not the end in and of itself. It’s the means to an end. So in 2017 stop slaving away at the content game and make sure it’s serving your needs and not vice versa.

What tactics will you be dumping in 2017? Let us know with a comment or tweet!

Robot writing with a pen Free Photo

Make My Social Media Post Go Viral

By Kat Beaulieu, Communications Strategist


“Make my social media post go viral”

It’s what every client wants and the gold standard for measuring social media success. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be the genius behind a post that goes viral?

And yet, it is an elusive goal that faces many challenges, not the least of which is that most clients tend to want to promote their products and services, which is in stark contrast to a site like ViralNova, whose whole raison d’être is to produce “the latest interesting, hilarious, and mind-blowing stories on the Web.” Additionally, many clients are risk adverse, so what is interesting, hilarious or mind-blowing to social media consumers can be terrifying to clients.

Nonetheless, it is important to at least sustain high levels of interaction with your content and to aspire to make hitting the viral jackpot a regular mission. In the metrics-driven business of PR and marketing, raising your clients’ numbers in social media likes, engagement and “People talking about this” will rely on your ability to generate engaging content. Even if none of your posts go truly viral, getting some reaction will be critical to maintaining and growing your social media page’s engagement.

Since most of us have clients who are not ViralNova, I humbly present a formula for generating engaging social media content that fits you, or specifically: FITC U

The FITC U formula can help you create content that is relevant to your client or brand and also hits on something that is:

  • Funny
  • Intelligence massager
  • Truth
  • Cute
  • Unbelievable

To elaborate:

  • Funny: Most people share posts online that are humorous. Reinterpret your product or service in an unexpected or humorous way. Sell socks? Use a sock monkey puppet. Sell stocks? Create a faux investor report about an impending IPO for zombie repellent. Be creative, but know your audience and what will resonate with them.
  • Zodiac Pool Systems combined humor and popular culture in this relevant, funny meme.
  • Intelligence massager: You’ve seen these—“75% of people will get this wrong!” People love to let their friends know how smart they are. Create a simple puzzle or quiz that begs people to answer. By answering, they’re engaging and their engagement will get shared on friends’ feeds. Tie your quiz in with #TriviaTuesday for added visibility.
  • The Weather Channel cleverly tied in the names of winter storms with this quiz.
  • Truth: this follows similar psychology to the ‘Intelligence massager’ in terms of tapping into people wanting to share their wisdom, but instead of being formatted as a puzzle or quiz, it is a statement or set of statements. I use the term “truth” here to imply more of a personal truth than a factual one. Think of celebrity quotes or meme-friendly statements like “Not all those who wander are lost” and “Successful people forgive others.”
  • Cute: babies, puppies and kittens, plus goats in pajamas. Need I say more? #caturday #sundog
  • Tri-City Hospital Foundation’s video of Leo the dog driving an electric car was a hit.
  • Unbelievable: Think of incredible, mind-blowing things that will prompt people to use the “wow” emoji, like “A ball of glass will bounce higher than a ball of rubber” or “In 616, King Rædwald of East Anglia is conquering Northumbria (Northern England) at the Battle of the River Idle while The General Grant tree is born in Kings Canyon National Park.” Incredible photos work too.

What’s the secret to building a viral social media post? Make your post hit three or more of the formula’s elements.

And remember, if you’re having trouble creating content that FITC U, you can always switch things up a little, in which case you may end up deciding to FUC IT.

Need help killing it with social media that FITC U? Don’t give up, reach out, we can help.