How to Use PR to Improve SEO Results

If you want to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) results (or squeeze out a competitor in page ranking), a properly leveraged PR program could be just the boost you need.

Relevant keywords. Link building. Delivering fresh, quality content. These tactics top the list of requirements for a successful SEO strategy – and a well-executed PR program can deliver on all three with just a little extra effort and planning.

Use these tips to make get the best SEO results from your PR program:

  1. Choose Keywords Carefully. Keywords should not be approached as an after thought once a release is written. If you have a list of keywords already in use for SEO campaigns, deliver the list to your PR writer, if not, do your homework and come up with a laundry list of relevant keywords that can be leveraged across all communications. When brainstorming keywords, consider which terms your target audience is likely to use when searching for your type of products or services. Free tools like Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool or WordTracker, will provide useful search volume data that can help you refine your list. Eliminate words or phrases that cannot deliver significant website traffic due to insufficient search volume and consider cutting any popular terms that put you in competition with 1M+ search results. Try to create a list of 10 – 15 targeted keywords that can be leveraged repeatedly in your press campaigns over time. (Note: your actual list may be shorter or longer depending on the size of your company, scope of offering and SEO budget).
  2. Be Aware of Keyword Placement and Frequency.  Each press release should be optimized for 1-2 keyword phrases. Include keywords in the title, subtitle and first paragraphs, but don’t over stuff your press release with keywords. This practice will dilute the effectiveness of your media communications – remember ultimately, humans, not bots, read press releases. Ideally in a 500-word press release, your chosen keywords should appear 2-4 times.
  3. Include a Call to Action with Hyperlink.  Search engines favor sites that have a high number of inbound links from other popular sites. Press releases can be a very effective way to earn those inbound links. News distribution sites that copy content from newswire feeds often convert full URLs into hyperlinks. Use this to your advantage by making sure that every press release distributed across the wire includes a call-to-action with a full URL link to your site (not an embedded hyperlink). Also, be sure your PR person asks journalists to include inbound links in any feature news stories (To be successful, you may need to get creative and provide a reason to include the link, i.e. come up with a special or exclusive offer for the publication’s readers). This strategy won’t always yield results, but it’s definitely worth a try – just a few links from top tier publications can do wonders for your SEO program.
  4. Add Images and Video.  Multi-media can give your company added visibility in search engines and make your press releases more shareable. To get the best SEO results, add descriptive titles that include your chosen keywords to all embedded images and videos. News distribution services charge extra for the inclusion of multi-media, so you may want to strategically plan which press releases are worthy of the added cost or stagger your distribution of multi-media releases throughout the year.
  5. Create an Online Newsroom and RSS for News Distribution.  Search engines, especially Google, love blogs for the fresh content and highly structured data. If you don’t already have an online newsroom, consider adding a blog style newsroom to your website. By posting releases to your site and distributing through RSS, you can get even more mileage from your PR program. Be sure to choose a SEO friendly blog platform and include tags for your keywords with each post. Bookmark and share each post and provide sharing tools so that others can easily do the same.
  6. Make Headlines Tweet Friendly. Keep your press release headlines short (less than 70 characters, if possible) to improve tweetability or consider adding suggested Tweet text at the end of your release to make sharing of your news easy for readers (and be sure to include a shortened URL that links back to the full-text release on your site).
  7. Automate Distribution of News Across Relevant Channels. By using a news distribution service like BusinessWire or PR Newswire, you will be able to extend the reach of your news and get pickup of full-text press releases (complete with keywords and hyperlinks to your site) on thousands of downstream sites, including Internet portals, search engines, websites, financial services and database systems. Choose the level of distribution service based the relevancy and newsworthiness of the communication you are distributing. For instance, you may want to consider lower cost “online only” distribution options when the primary goal of the release is to aide SEO efforts (as may be the case with a media alert announcing the availability of a company sponsored informational report), while a larger distribution would be more appropriate for a press release that is likely to earn your company feature news stories.
  8. Keep a Steady Pace.  Ideally companies should aim to distribute a minimum of 2-3 releases per month to help boost SEO results. Understandably, it can be difficult for smaller companies and start-ups to keep this pace. Having a back up strategy in place can help fill news gaps when they occur. Momentum releases (that package multiple smaller news items into one communication) or media alerts (that publicize events/information vs. news) can keep your SEO-friendly PR program afloat despite a slump in media-worthy news.
  9. Measure Your Results.  Web analytics are essential – if you don’t already have a web traffic-monitoring tool, get one. Google’s free web analytics offers a wealth of information on the origin of website visitors and keywords. Use this information to track the progress of your efforts and identify areas for improvement.
  10. Be Patient.  Neither PR nor SEO are about instant gratification. Often it takes months to see results and this is especially true for smaller or new companies. Set realistic expectations from the beginning and give the program a minimum of 6 months to deliver measurable results.
  11. Make Adjustments.  SEO isn’t a one-time event. Search engine algorithms change regularly, so the tactics that worked last year may not work this year.  Keep up with SEO best practices and make adjustments as algorithms change to ensure the best results. SEO requires dedication and a long-term commitment but the pay-off will be worthwhile for those that keep with it over time.

Give a gift to Sales: Thinking outside the Holiday PR Box

A lot of companies tend to see only two options for PR around the holidays: holiday story lines and New Year trends.  While these may be the perfect recipe for a good holiday PR campaign, it’s time companies think outside the box.  As noted in my blog post last year “Tips for Successful Holiday Campaigns”, I do believe the time period between Thanksgiving and the New Year presents an opportunity to leverage the perceived news lull with a year-end or year-beginning storyline.  Often editors and bloggers are looking for interesting ideas to fill their “pages” during this holiday down time.

However, as is with every good strategy, over time everyone gravitates to it.  So now, the noise around obvious holiday trends is so great, it’s difficult for a company to rise above the crowd.  Time for some holiday innovation, how about it?

With the general slow-down in corporate productivity around the holidays, more people are reading news sites, blogs and following social media channels than during busier times of the year.  So smart holiday PR campaigning can be a powerful way to get your company noticed.  And everyone knows Sales is desperately trying to make their year-end numbers, so give the readers something that will potentially translate to a sale.

Customer case studies, product innovations and discounted products and services are three great alternatives to the holiday trend approach.

#1 – Customer case studies: I can promise you that in your existing customer base there is a hero waiting to rise to the forefront of your PR efforts.  Here’s the catch.  They don’t have to come from a behemoth company.  They just need to have a passion about what they are doing and believe your product is an enabler of their cause.  Also, with smaller companies you don’t need to maneuver the dreaded corporate PR watchdogs – many times these spokespeople have an open microphone to speak freely about what they are doing with your product and /or service.  Seek them out and then pitch their story.  Nothing is more helpful to a customer sale than a great customer testimonial.

#2 – Product Innovation: A lot of companies hold product innovation news until the New Year has rung in.  Why not be bold and let potential customers know what your product can do for them now.  In the midst of holiday “do’s and don’ts, a strong product announcement is like a breath of fresh air to writers who have been pitched trend stories ad-nauseum.   And it certainly won’t hurt your sales team’s efforts.

#3 – Discounted products and services: Let’s face it; we can’t get around this one.  Everyone is looking for a bargain during the holidays, so give your customers what they want.  With the advent of location-based offers at ridiculous prices, you can’t escape the fact that everyone is expecting at companies will make some incredible offer at some point.  Why not during the season of giving?  Instead of offering tips, offer a promotion.

Again, I do believe the holidays are great times to announce results of surveys or make predictions about New Year trends – or to consider something a little more catchy or gimmicky as these types of news stunts often seem to fit in better with the sense of sensationalism surrounding the holiday season.

But please, they’ll be enough boxes under trees –  don’t let your PR campaigns get stuck in one.

Wishing all of Attain Marketing’s clients, colleagues and friends a safe and truly joyous holiday season!

Online Reputations and Rabbit Holes

This week’s Persuasive Marketing blog comes from Pete Bartolik, a freelance writer/editor with whom I enjoyed and valued working with for many years.  I think you’ll see why.  Pete spent many years as a staff reporter and editor, followed by a virtual lifetime with a PR agency, before hanging out his own shingle.  Enjoy!

Back in 1987, Ray Donovan, previously Secretary of Labor under Ronald Reagan and the first sitting cabinet member to be indicted, was acquitted with other defendants from charges of fraud in construction contracts. Alluding to the flood of negative print and TV news stories that accompanied the original mob-tinged allegations, he was famously quoted saying, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”

In today’s hyperactive blog environment, he’d probably feel like he’s falling – perpetually – like Alice down the rabbit hole.

When print still dominated, we’d counsel clients to expect to be misquoted or taken out of context, and develop a thick skin – plus, even when a publication printed a correction, odds are it would be seen by just a fraction of those who had read the original.

Blogs have vastly ramped up the delivery speed of information, and misinformation, and it now persists for all digital eternity.  More concerning is that the information can take many twists and turns as it traverses the Net echo chamber.

As a youngster you may have played the party game that goes under a variety of names such as “Whisper” or “Telephone” in which successive players pass along a sentence or phrase. By the time the content reaches the last person and is announced to the group, it inevitably has acquired a much different meaning.

Electronic social networks can take the Whisper game to extreme heights, with the potential for truly harmful reputational damage. You can’t afford to shrug off misinformation because it becomes part of your online “permanent record.”

Extreme alertness is the order of the day. Once a story or comment appears online it can proliferate with rapidity and continually resurface as later bloggers pick up on the original. So the best way to blunt the impact is to communicate quickly and directly with the original author to try and correct the record.

The folks who do the blogging for a living are generally pretty reasonable. Many will quickly update their online posting, sometimes just replacing erroneous information, or at least noting a required correction. The sooner you’re able to do this, the more likely you are to limit parroting of the damaging content.

But, still, work on developing that thick skin. It’s inevitable that even after you’ve got the right information online, somewhere down the line someone is going to resurrect the original damaging content. And their blog will tell two people, and they’ll each tell two people, and so on and so on…

Welcome to the rabbit hole.

B2B Social Media Menu: Which Items Should You Pick?

OK, ok, it’s true.  Yes, you need a social media strategy even if you’re a B2B technology company. Although B2B still lags behind in social media use compared to consumer companies, we’ve reached that point where it can’t be ignored in any segment.  The key is to establish a social media plan that supports your company’s core marketing objectives and is inline with overall goals – then you can craft an effective program that incorporates one or many of the available social media tactics that make the most sense for your business.

A good social media strategy will help your company:

  1. Increase unique traffic to your core website or desired web page
  2. Convert anonymous traffic to potential customers by promoting premium content to visitors from social media sites
  3. Create buzz, promote viral groundswell and increase brand recognition for your company

Here are a few of the various programs and tactics to consider as part of your social media mix:

  • Blogging – although now very popular and competitive, corporate blogs represent an ideal venue for posting thought leadership views as well as an additional place to post company news, events and other important info
  • Microblogging – Clearly Twitter has emerged as the leading microblogging site and it’s worth the effort to build a quality list of followers and use the channel to broadcast company news, events and other industry commentary
  • Social Networking – While the verdict is still out on Facebook as to its viability as an effective B2B social media channel, more companies are finding innovative ways to leverage the channel. Meanwhile, LinkedIn remains a favorite for B2B marketers as a way to develop mini-communities and participate in industry discussion and position themselves as thought leaders.
  • Social Press – Media 2.0 is all about the online conversation and blogger mentions.  A successful social media program will include updating all influential bloggers on a regular basis about all new thought leadership and new products
  • Bookmarking/Tagging – it’s now all about content marketing.  The more places you can post good content – or have others share your content, the better off you’ll be. Delicious, Digg, Sphinn, Reddit, and Friendfeed are just a few of the more popular bookmarking sites.
  • Online Video – we’ve been saying it for years now, we’re in a video revolution and it’s the future of digital marketing.  And now, for online video posting, YouTube is not the only game in town with sites like Tom’s ITPro.com, InfoSecIsland.com and ITExpertVoice.com popping up daily.
  • Photosharing – Photosharing through sites like photobucket.com represents yet another channel to post content and generate links back to your core site.  Encourage employees to share any interesting and relevant photos from industry events with links back to blog and the website.
  • Podcasting – here’s a great channel for re-purposing valuable recorded content like webinars, interviews and phone conferences.
  • Presentation sharing – the use of Slideshare enables you to post presentations (again, another opportunity for thought leadership and content marketing) with links back to your core site

Bottom line… there’s a robust selection of social media programs to help promote your company on the Internet.  The key is a good social media strategy that provides the right mix of programs based on your company’s overall goals and objectives.

Tips for Successful Holiday PR Campaigns

A lot of companies tend to see the holidays as dead air time, some even shut down their PR efforts altogether. The truth is the time period between Thanksgiving and the New Year presents an opportunity to leverage the perceived news lull with a year-end or year-beginning storyline.  Often editors and media outlets are looking for interesting ideas to fill their “pages” during this holiday down time.  Also, with the general slow-down in corporate productivity around the holidays, more people are reading news sites, blogs and following social media channels than during busier times of the year.  So smart holiday PR campaigning can be a powerful way to get your company noticed.

The most important key to effective holiday campaigning is to leverage popular trends and storylines.  Even if your product is a nerdy, seemingly non-interesting component in the technology stack (hey, not everyone is marketing a mobile phone), look for the larger story lines you can connect to or comment on.  This may require thinking outside of the box but it always can be done.

Perhaps you can leverage a partner or customer to jointly address an interesting angle or co-sponsor a year-end study.  The holidays are great times to announce results of surveys or make predictions about New Year trends.  This is also the time to consider something a little more catchy or gimmicky as these types of news stunts often seem to fit in better with the sense of sensationalism surrounding the holiday season.

Here are some more important tips for great holiday campaigns:

Be believable – You can claim that any pitch is related to the holidays, but that doesn’t mean an editor will believe it. In order to achieve the best success, there must be a valid, relevant holiday tie to your story idea.  Are you working with an expert source who can predict trends that relate to the Christmas season? Do you have a customer or partner that offers a great product perfect for holiday shoppers? These are the sorts of things that make for successful holiday pitches.

Start early – The most important thing to remember when pitching based on a certain holiday is to do it well in advance. Many pubs have their Christmas content picked out early, so don’t delay.  If you start early enough you can also leverage editorial calendar opportunities to add momentum and additional stories to your PR campaign.

Finish late – While you should do your initial holiday pitching in advance, it can also be effective to do some additional outreach directly before the holiday. Many reporters will be out of the office or already done with their holiday stories, but the ones who are not may be more likely to read your e-mail or take your phone call because they won’t be receiving as many as usual.  At a minimum, this is the perfect time to do some true relationship building and spreading of genuine holiday cheer.

Stand out from the crowd! – Bad holiday pitches can be like hearing “Jingle Bells” one too many times – painful.  Best case scenario is you’ll be forgiven but worst case is you’ll leave a bad impression on your editorial targets.  Personalize your pitch. Include a clear and attention-getting subject line. Don’t include an overabundance of unimportant information. Clearly communicate why your story idea is truly relevant and better than the rest – which of course includes name dropping and credibility points to substantiate your pitch.

If thoughtfully crafted and executed properly, holiday campaigns can be a very effective way to keep PR momentum going through the holiday lull while possibly netting some great attention you might not otherwise have received.

The Art of Crisis Communications: Have a Plan but Keep it Simple

For this week’s blog, I asked longtime PR pro, Staci Busby, to share her insights on crisis communications, a very important topic that inevitably must be faced by all companies and their communicators.  With more than 20 years working in corporate, non-profit and agency environments, Staci Busby is an accredited Public Relations Counselor who has led crisis communications teams through a variety of issues and crises, ranging from employee murders, picketing and triple swipes on debit cards to E. coli poisoning, natural disasters and significant layoffs.

Oil spills, toxic sludge slides and mine disasters… now what? We’re confronted with major disasters regularly. How we handle these crises for our employers can make or break their reputations.

It’s always interesting to read the opinion pieces after a catastrophe occurs. “I would have done this.” “They should have done that.” The truth is we all would do better in hindsight. So the best we can do is learn from our experiences and mistakes, (ours and others), and be as prepared as possible when a crisis does hit.

Although in a crisis situation we’re usually forced into a reactionary mode, it is possible to plan ahead by creating a basic process to follow so that you are not blindsided when a tragedy occurs. I’m not an advocate for filling your bookshelves with plans for anything and everything that might happen, but I do believe it’s important to brainstorm possible threats and develop a simple guide that will help you and your company endure potential crises.

You may find volumes of valuable information to help you predict, plan, practice and prepare for the unthinkable; but it’s rare to find a simple, practical guide to use once a crisis hits, so here are a few simple tips to keep in mind.

  1. First, when a crisis hits, take a deep breath and clear your mind so you can focus on the specific issue you are facing and determine its magnitude.  It’s hard to think during a crisis, particularly if people are injured or killed. Use the simple guide you’ve already developed to help you focus on steps that need to be taken.
  2. Next, gather the facts and develop key messages. Uncover the who, what, why, when and where of the crisis – without speculation, rumor or innuendo. Then, flesh out the basic messages regarding the situation.
  3. Third, identify key audiences (investors, employees, customers, any government officials, media, etc.) that need to be informed. You can tailor your messages to the relevant audiences based on what is most important to them. For example, if a crisis occurs that is not publicized by the media, you may still send a letter to employees explaining the situation. However, it’s always important to be prepared to respond if the press becomes aware of the situation, or you may choose to work with key members of the media to disseminate your message to a particular audience.
  4. Next, identify a limited number of spokespeople, ensure they are familiar with the issue and prepare them to deliver the key messages. Consistent messages are critical because they can minimize confusion and help an organization maintain credibility during an emergency or crisis situation. It’s essential that the spokesperson represent a unified voice for the company.
  5. Determine the most effective method of communicating to each audience. A letter or e-mail to employees may be the best way to handle an internal issue. However, if it is an issue with public consequences, you may decide to respond with a written or verbal statement delivered by an authorized spokesperson. When contemplating the method of communication, always consider the extent of the situation, the audience and the impact it may have on the company.
  6. Now, communicate. How, what and when you communicate to whom can affect the impact of the situation, positively and negatively. The quicker you communicate clearly to your selected audiences, the fewer rumors you have to dispel. Quickly communicate how the crisis will be resolved and what steps you will take to prevent it from happening again. If the resolution is a long process, offer some checkpoints as to when you’ll be   updating your target audiences about your company’s progress.
  7. After the initial response, remember to monitor the results of public statements. What is being reported? How are employees/customers/investors feeling about the crisis? Are your messages being delivered? Are questions being answered? If your messages are not clear, or are misinterpreted, you may need to adjust the statements accordingly. Stay on top of how the media reports the crisis. Be sure to correct factual errors quickly, so that they are not repeated. In the age of social media, it’s important to have a way of monitoring online chat and responding via selected channels if deemed appropriate.
  8. Assess initial reaction to the crisis and review new information. Once the heat of the moment subsides, the tendency is to move on to other business matters. While the end goal is to resume normal business operations, it is important to stay with a crisis situation until it has been resolved completely and there is no new information to report. Crises often evolve, so you should continue to review communications until the threat and discussion subside completely.
  9. Next, determine whether additional communication is needed. Think about employees, customers, investors and other audiences who may take comfort in receiving an official communication informing them that the situation is resolved.
  10. Finally, remember to evaluate the effectiveness of your crisis communications process by asking these questions:
    • How can we prevent this from happening again?
    • How can we improve the crisis/issues management process?
    • What went right? What went wrong?
    • How should we revise our guide based on what we’ve learned?
    • What did we need at our fingertips that wasn’t available?

This is where “I should have; I could have” comes in handy. Learn from each issue or crisis and apply those lessons to your ongoing planning process.

Remember, it takes years for a company to build a solid reputation and seconds to destroy it. When a crisis hits, the people involved in handling the fallout have very little time to think and often have difficulty thinking clearly, depending on the magnitude of what has happened.  Having a simple plan and following basic steps to communicate will help insure your company keeps its reputation intact no matter what type of crisis it is facing.

How to Engage Industry Influencers

Quality not quantity.  We’re all familiar with the principle and know it’s a proven discipline in so many aspects of life.  So why should this be any different in the new world of social marketing and PR 2.0.  Well it’s not.  Let’s face it, as good as it may feel having a lot of people “follow” or “like” you and/or your company, what’s the point of having 1,000 followers if only a handful are meaningful contacts?  Numbers for the sake of numbers won’t really yield the results you’re looking for long term.  It’s much more important to focus your time and attention on those who are seen as opinion leaders and influencers based on their knowledge, expertise, experience or notoriety.

A good recipe for “influencing the influencers” is to identify the most relevant people and develop an ongoing dialogue based on quality relations, innovative content and company credibility.

Here are few key tips to help you succeed at reaching your key influencers:

  • Target, target, target – Target a group of people who can offer the most bang for the buck rather than using a shot-gun approach of going after everyone that could be interested in your product or service. Do your homework to see which influencers are most relevant to your company and then build a strategy for maintaining consistent, meaningful dialogue with them.
  • Relationship building – media, blogger and analyst relations is just that.  Relations.  And we all know in human relations, people care when you care about them. When you’re targeting key influencers, it’s crucial to know as much as possible about your targets – their personal and professional backgrounds, online activities (Web site, social media), interests, likes, dislikes, etc. Then engage in meaningful and genuine dialogue through appropriate channels (including social media) – as well as be sure to craft your communications in light of their interests.  You’ll be amazed at the response.
  • Tell your story through the mouth of customers – as much as your relationship with influencers is important, they’d still rather hear your story through the mouth of a customer.   Without doubt customer testimonials can greatly enhance the credibility of your company and result in increased sales and media coverage. When customers talk favorably of your product or service, they send a free, believable and targeted marketing message. Customer endorsements can be used in a variety of marketing mediums: media/analyst outreach, collateral, thought leadership events, social media and/or inclusion on the website. For more tips on leveraging customer testimonials, see reference Tried and True PR Strategies for a Prosperous 2010.
  • Innovative programs: With the amount of online chatter and competition for the attention of key influencers, you can’t afford to be boring or depend on “me too” programs.  Thinking outside the box is absolutely essential and key to getting these influencers on board with your company.  Look for resources that can execute marketing/PR campaigns that go beyond the “cookie cutter” approach to deliver fresh ideas and tactics that will get people to listen and make conversations happen.

It may be 2010, but the simple fact is not much has really changed in terms getting the attention of influential media/bloggers. You need to know who you are targeting and build the relationship based on genuine interest and by providing these influencers with a good story/content that will help them succeed at their job.

Some Tips and Techniques on the Care and Feeding of Spokespeople

I asked a long time colleague, Jessica Johannes, a communications pro with more than 15 years of progressive experience in communications, public relations and marketing for Fortune 500 technology companies, to share her insights on the importance of media training for executives. Her background includes extensive experience developing hard-hitting, creative global communications programs to promote technology and innovation for Fortune 500 and emerging businesses.

A solid media relations program entails a steady flow of continuous interactions with media and influencers all with a few goals in mind—obtain the coveted media interview and secure the coverage your client or company is seeking. While the journey and path to securing the interview is one facet of the process, after the victory dance for landing the interview is done, there’s prep to do to make sure the conversation your spokesperson has with the reporter is meaningful and produces a positive outcome. Each interview is a critical component of the media relations campaign and holds the promise and potential to forward a company’s thought leadership initiatives by helping to establish a unique point of view and voice. Although there is no one formula or magic bullet for getting it right every time, there are some approaches that in today’s world – where traditional and social media models are colliding – still stand the test of time.

Know Your Spokesperson’s Style
Every spokesperson will bring a varied level of skill, knowledge and expertise. Having an understanding of the mix they bring will help you to assess how to get them ready. We’ve all been trained to do our homework and view past videos on YouTube or find quotes from previous interviews. We all know to provide our spokesperson with clean, concise briefing materials that outline the opportunity and make it easy for the spokesperson to deliver the message. Meeting with the spokesperson and having a short discussion regarding the goals you want to achieve and the story you want to tell is a standard practice for many practitioners. Using the meeting to establish or strengthen rapport with the spokesperson, understand any objectives or concerns they might have about being interviewed and just engaging with them in a conversation can aid in the success of the interview.

Focus on a Few Key Messages
In today’s noisy world, where the volume of information we are bombarded with is growing at an extraordinary rate, netting out a few key messages is critical. The company you work for or client you represent will always want to drive more points across than the media will have time, space or room to cover. Although the battle of what’s essential and what’s nice to have is always a tough conversation to have with an executive, having a few succinct points the spokesperson can bridge back to will help lead the way to the goals and objectives your organization wants to achieve.

Allow the Spokesperson’s Authentic Voice to Emerge
In the age of PowerPoint, ghost writers, tweeters, bloggers and teleprompters, it’s gotten easier to tell when someone knows their content and truly has a passion for their industry. Surrendering control is one of those sage pieces of advice that is even more imperative due to a number of factors such as emerging social media models and the growth in the volumes of information and external influences. Allowing the spokesperson to tell the story in their voice can often lead to new story opportunities and spark new, creative ideas that help to enhance and evolve the programs your leading.

A Few Closing Thoughts
There’s plenty more ground to cover on the care and feeding of spokespeople. Knowing your spokesperson’s style, identifying a few key messages and giving the spokesperson some runway to make the content their own are only a few tips that can aid in success. These methods are just a small sampling of the strategies I’ve tried that have worked over the years. In today’s world of hybrid, traditional, emerging and social media models, there are no hard and fast rules or a magic formula for success—just an abundance of opportunity, fusion of approaches and many great stories to tell.

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Bonus Tips for Making the Most of Your Analyst Briefings

In my last blog post, “The ABCs of Industry Analyst Briefings”, we looked at some of the key fundamentals for successfully briefing industry analysts.  Today I bring you bonus tips to add to the list of best practices you can adopt to ensure your company is putting its best foot forward in its analyst relations efforts.

1) Let the analyst talk. While the purpose of a vendor briefing is for companies to tell analysts about their products, savvy vendors recognize that analysts have something useful to say and deserve a listen. Too many companies plow through dozens of slides sticking tightly to their scripts and often end the call without the analyst getting one word in.  Again, the better analysts will not let this happen and will interrupt if they have questions or comments. But don’t make them do that. Good etiquette means you should pause often and ask whether the analyst has something to say. Better yet, make sure you plan to schedule time at the end of your briefing to specifically hear from the analyst, who can provide valuable insight and direction for your company. Contrary to common perception, analysts try to add value on their calls whether or not the vendor is a paying client.

2) Respect the analyst’s time. Industry analysts are among the most busy folks you’ll work with – and if they’re not, they’re probably not worth your company’s time.  In addition to tracking hundreds of vendors, they’re busy answering client inquiries, doing research, giving presentations/webinars, working on consulting projects, and writing reports.  It’s a known fact that analysts spend a lot of time on vendor briefings although they often prefer to be doing their other work. Therefore, it’s essential to schedule only the amount of time needed and abide by the schedule by starting and ending meetings on time.  Also, make sure your technology works; delays around incorrect Web conferencing logins, for example, are irritating and usually avoidable.  TIP:  resend web conferencing details about 10 minutes before the call so the information is at the top of the analyst’s e-mail box (Gartner analysts most particularly appreciate this).

3) Prepare a proper agenda and follow it. Having a proper agenda will help keep your analyst briefings on track.   When possible, this agenda should go to the analyst ahead of time for approval.  While this is not a popular practice, the agenda provides a tool for vendors and analysts to keep the briefings under control and make sure important topics are not overlooked. Too many vendors focus exclusively on their technology. It’s important to ensure that non-technology subjects like company, customers, financials, investors, management and industry backdrop are included in the briefing to ensure analysts have the proper perspective.

4) Go easy on the PowerPoint® slides. Nothing makes an analyst more frustrated than when they see that a vendor briefing presentation contains more slides than there are minutes allotted for the briefing. Too many slides leaves the analyst confused and not completely sure what is important for their takeaway. You need to make sure your presentation conveys a clear message and gets to the points you think are most important.  The best briefings supplement the presenters, not vice versa. Many analysts want to see your product in action; but of course these product demonstrations should be manageable and support the business messages you are promoting. Again, make sure that there is time for questions and discussion to hear from the analyst so you know if he/she has understood your presentation and to get valuable information they can offer.

5) Follow up with the analyst. It’s amazing that many times after a vendor expends extensive effort to find and brief an analyst, they do nothing to follow up after their initial call. Companies should continue to build the relationship by keeping analysts aware of news and asking for their opinions or ideas when appropriate. It is a fallacy that analysts will only give ideas to paying clients. While paying vendor clients do receive more involved interactions, most analysts are willing to have meaningful discussions with non-paying vendors after a briefing. Companies should strive to build memorable connections with analysts which are achieved by faithful, honest and interesting communications.

Bottom line: analysts are top influencers with your customers and among industry peers – nothing should be spared in applying correct etiquette to ensure you make the most of your valuable time with these high-powered people.

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The ABCs of Industry Analyst Briefings

ABCs of Industry Analyst RelationsBriefing technology industry analysts is a learned art rather than a formulaic science.
The main objective is to connect with the analysts so they understand your company and solution enough to describe it accurately to others. Some of these “others” include journalists and potential customers who may subscribe to an analyst service. While this objective seems quite straightforward, the desired result is often not achieved.

In this post we’ll discuss best practices for briefing industry analysts to help make sure your company connects the dots with these top influencers.

A) Get the Right Analyst While it seems obvious, analysts sometimes are pulled into briefings when they do not belong there. This can be quite embarrassing and/or irritating for all parties involved. Good analyst relations programs start by identifying a list of top candidates with proper research and adequate planning. You can learn about most analysts by looking at their biography on the analyst Web site, reading their quotes in the trade press or following their social media updates. Not doing so shows a lack of preparation.

B) Know the Analyst Firm While most people in the technology business know the profiles of the largest advisory firms, it’s important to be well versed on smaller firms you decide to target. Every firm is different: Many only do work for vendors while others sell research reports. While some focus on quantitative research, others only do qualitative analysis, and some do both. It’s important to learn about these nuances to ensure your analyst briefings reflect knowledge of the firm you are briefing and to best leverage the unique benefits of each opportunity.

C) Prepare the Analyst Do not assume any analyst knows about your company or product. A briefing always goes better when the analyst has time before the discussion to learn about your company. This gives the analyst a chance to think through what you do and is better prepared to ask relevant questions. Vendors or their PR agencies need to provide information to analysts ahead of time including links to recent press releases of significance. They should also provide the analyst with names and titles of people that will be participating in the briefing. If the analyst is not prepared with this basic info, the briefing is more awkward, more time is wasted on background discussion and the analyst is less likely to be prepared to add much value, which is not ideal.

D) Bring the Right People from your Company It’s important to select the best and most relevant spokespeople from your company to attend an analyst briefing. Things to consider when deciding who should attend a call include: the analyst’s seniority, level of technical expertise, vertical industry, and their coverage areas. You should limit company attendees to 2-3 people at the most and offer follow-up communications with other members on the team if necessary.

E) Include Proper Introductions When hosting a briefing, take the time for proper introductions before jumping into your company spiel. Nothing is more awkward than when a company representative launches into slide ware before everyone on the call has a chance to be introduced. While the better analysts will interrupt and suggest introductions, some will not. For the best results, make sure the analyst knows who is on the call and their specific role/s in the company. Also, make sure you let the analyst provide a brief summary of his/her background , coverage areas and specific items of interest before you start, so ideally you can gear the conversation accordingly.

Bottom line, analysts influence people in the business and it is important to be sure they have an accurate perspective on your company and solutions. In next week’s post, we’ll look at more tips to help you make the most of your analyst briefings.