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You can tell that the year is about to end when nearly half of all blog posts and press releases talk about trends and predictions.
So, we're not going to predict what 2014 will look like. Instead, we're going to look back at some of the year's best blog posts, that we think all comms pros should read before the year ends.
Here are our Top Ten blog posts, listed because of their impact and insights. We also asked some of the authors how they came up with the idea and what they feel the impact has been.
No one can fuel a PR debate like Tom Foremski. His 2006 post Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die! is still considered an evergreen and often referred to by bloggers that want to declare the end of the era of the press release.
'Did Google just kill PR agencies' had a similar impact. Foremski took the prediction of the end of the press release a bit further, based on Google’s update of its webmaster rules on links and keywords in press releases. Google announced that it would penalise companies that try to manipulate PageRank:
If you repeat the use of a word in your press release, Google will think you are trying to stuff it with keywords and try to trick its index. Repeated words are a big red flag.
The article led to a flood of comments and new blog posts, including Why Google DIDN'T Kill PR Agencies by Gijs Moonen on our 360 blog. He argued that Google's update is nothing new:
Assets in a PR campaign, like press releases, blogs or social media posts, all thrive on relevance. If a story isn’t interesting or appealing to a journalist, a blogger community or social media shares, chances are that it will never have an impact on your client’s campaign.
In short: tricks were never allowed - not before or after Google's new algorithm. Foremski followed up on the article with Google is forcing a reinvention of PR. The core message still being the same; in the old days, when Google would only rank pages based on the number and authority of inbound links, PR was in a fine spot. Now fresh, relevant content that is being shared on social media is much more important, PR needs to reinvent itself.
A wholly different view on the future of PR came from Gini Dietrich. She claims that PR professionals of the future should have so many qualities that it's impossible to find them in one person:
Experts in media and blogger relations, content development, content marketing, workflow development and email marketing, on-page search engine optimization, issues management, and client service. If they can also do some simple WordPress coding, they’ll move to the front of the line.
I asked her what the impact of this post had been:
"When I was in Louisville, Ky., speaking at the IABC conference, a friend told me she read that blog post and has completely restructured her business model because of it. The lines between PR, marketing, and advertising have been blurring for a few years, but now we’re adding customer service and sales in there because of social media. While I don’t necessarily think social belongs to PR, it’s definitely changing the way we do our jobs. Now we have to be consistent in our messaging, advocate for our organizations, answer customer’s questions, and sell. That’s what the PR firm of the future will look like."
A similar topic was addressed by Deirdre Breakenridge on her personal blog. Similar to Gini's article, she pulled together a list of characteristics that a universal PR professional should have in the future, including building relationships by giving, always being 'on' and always test new technology.
So, how did she come up with this topic?
"The Universal PR Professional post was born out of the need for communicators to be more flexible in the organizational environment, and for them to adapt to social media communications, with a much more involved and dynamic public. First and foremost, Universal PR professionals are strategic communicators willing to take on new roles and responsibilities, which I discuss in my book, Social Media and Public Relations. To be considered a Universal PR person you must understand and embrace how social media is integrated into your marketing communications. You must also have excellent relationship building skills and be able to engage with stakeholders directly, sharing the content that is valuable to them. Navigating an ever-changing media landscape has become the norm and learning new social technologies is no longer someone else’s job. New practices are being embraced and will be imperative in PR in 2014 and beyond."
This isn’t about the new tools that are before you.
This isn’t about social media or popular social networks.
This isn’t about bloggers and blogging.
Nor is this about tablets, smartphones, and the app economy.
This is about putting the public back in public relations and social in social media and that has nothing to do with tools or technology we overly celebrate today. Slow down. Take a breath. While there’s an abundance of change there isn’t a wealth of innovation in processes or methodologies.
The post was shared more than 1,000 times on Twitter, which is quite impressive - even for Brian Solis.
Anyone who as ever used the phrase 'brand journalism' in front of a journalist will know that it's a touchy subject. What is journalism, and when can someone call themselves a journalist? According to Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel (in their very influential book 'The Elements of Journalism'), a journalist's first loyalty is to citizens, they must be independent from those they cover and they should serve as an independent monitor of power. Quite different from brand journalism, one has to admit.
Jeff Jarvis, however, shed a whole new light to the discussion. He moved away from asking what a journalist is. It's more important to look at the concept of journalism, he argues:
Journalism is not content. It is not a noun. It need not be a profession or an industry. It is not the province of a guild. It is not a scarcity to be controlled. It no longer happens in newsrooms. It is no longer confined to narrative form.
Another interesting post that added something to the discussion about the decline of traditional media was Kevin Allen's post on PR Daily. Instead of focussing on failing business models of traditional publishing houses, he took a look at the journalist perspective. The content marketing industry is in need for employees who are able to do just that what journalists are good at: 'Brands now hire us to do for them what we once did for news organisations: tell stories.'
He even shares some tips for journalists that want to turn to PR - including 'do some soul-searching'.
Sarah Hill was the first journalist ever to use a Google+ Hangout in a television webcast, so you could say that she knows how to adopt new Google technology. Without a doubt, Google Glass was the (upcoming) gadget of the year 2013. Sarah was amongst the first to apply the technology in the field of journalism:
Glass provides you with freedom of motion and the ability to convey more intimate stories as journalists can be less intrusive to his or her subjects. Instead of taking your eyes off the action to take notes, you can record the event hands free from your face.
For anyone who is interested in the state of content marketing in 2013, Neville Hobson's post gives a very clear overview of the challenges for both B2C and B2B marketeers. He compared two recent reports and found some astonishing conclusions. Like this one: the most important content marketing challenge for large companies is to produce engaging content. Small organisations particularly struggle with time and budget.
Almost half of the marketing professionals surveyed indicated that they have no content marketing strategy. However, what is even more alarming: "A small but significant percentage in each camp is unsure whether or not they have a strategy for content marketing."
I asked Neville Hobson how he came up with the topic and what the impact has been:
"When MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute published the results of their two surveys about B2C and B2B content marketing, what struck me immediately was the blinkered view of survey participants that made them blind to what their real challenge is. It’s not about lack of ability to create great content, lack of time, lack of budget, lack of anything tactical – it’s lack of a plan! Sure, those tactical issues are real, yet all stem from the primary gap – that of no strategic plan. If you don’t know where you’re headed, and how you’ll know whether you got there or whatever you’re doing worked, then no wonder you have other worries. Start with a clear and credible plan and you’ll soon find that those other challenges look a lot more surmountable."
Hiring a PR agency is not necessarily the best way to generate free publicity, according to Geoffrey James. In fact, it's not that hard to do yourself, if you follow these steps:
Devise a story worth writing about
Create nuggets to insert into the story
Offer yourself as a story source
Control the interview
Although the writer was accused of being 'overly simplistic' in the comments, it did generate a lot of traction.
So I asked the author how he felt the piece was received:
"Whenever I write something that's critical of a segment of the marketing profession, the people whose livelihoods depend upon that type of marketing claim that I don't know what I'm talking about, that I haven't defined their job correctly, and that my writing generally sucks. I think that public relations professionals are well aware that the standards for their profession are often low and that many companies get charged a lot of money for efforts that have marginal impact. If that weren't true posts like this wouldn't generate the overwrought umbrage."
Needless to say we disagree with Geoffrey in many ways. Still, his post is a good read for anyone working at, or with, an agency.
If you are preparing for a media training, you might want to consider showing this interview during the introduction. Not only to show how nasty interviewers can get, but also to share a great example of how to deal with it.
This is how she pulled it off, according to Christina Mozaffari:
1. She didn’t let Mr. O’Leary change the debate
2. She refused to engage in hypotheticals
3. She ignored his insults (mind you, we're still talking about a 14-year old!)
4. She knew what she was walking into
5. She brought on the challenge
Watch the full interview here:
By creating a list of ten blog posts, you leave out at least a few hundred articles (more likely: thousands). Which one did you miss in our list? Please share them in the comments.