Glint Elevates Its Brand with a Broadcast Segment

Glint CEO, Jim Barnett (far left), highlights how incorporating data from employee surveys is important for feedback and starting important conversations.

Glint CEO, Jim Barnett (far left), highlights how incorporating data from employee surveys.

Seizing the Opportunity: Leveraging Its National Study

Glint, an HR platform that helps organizations measure and improve employee engagement, had the key components but needed to get in front of a producer to tell its story. To get CEO Jim Barnett on-air, Highwire leveraged the company’s first-of-its-kind national study about Silicon Valley retention and engagement as a timely hook to highlight Barnett’s expertise.

Effective Execution: Proactive Media Pitching

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Glint CEO, Jim Barnett (right), prepares for his NBC Bay Area segment Press:Here.

Highwire collaborated with the Press:Here host on potential show topics, and once the segment was secured, the team prepped Jim to anticipate all the variables of the fast-paced, panel-style show.

During the segment, entitled “Modern Day Suggestion Box,” Jim positioned himself as a thought leader on a number of topics, including:

  • Winning the Tech Talent War: How to keep tech employees from bailing on their $200,000-a-Year Jobs
  • The Intersection of AI and HR: Why AI isn’t the future of the workplace – It’s here now
  • High-Touch Solutions to Hands-Off Problems: How AI addresses inclusion and diversity issues in Silicon Valley
  • Avoiding Popularity Contest at Work: Balancing company needs with employee wants (without diving off the deep end)

Positive Results: Reaching a Wide Audience

With about 5.25 million people in 9 counties accessing NBC Bay Area, broadcast opportunities like this one allowed Glint to expand and reinforce its brand recognition throughout Silicon Valley.

While there is lots of pre-show work, it doesn’t end when you leave the studio. In this case, Highwire ensured there was a good rapport built with the Press:Here host and panelists in order to encourage future conversations with Barnett.

Click here for more from Jim’s Press:Here segment.

Three Tips for Effective Industry Analyst Relations

While communications strategies have changed dramatically over the years, industry analysts remain an important part of a technology company’s marketing mix. Analysts provide a third-party view of a company’s innovation and approach to their respective market. Since they are close to technology buyers, they understand how vendor marketing messages will resonate with buyers. Highwire PR offers advice on the very latest technology analyst relations best practices, based on our work for clients and a conversation with Beth Hespe, Corporate Communications Manager at Ixia, a seasoned pro with her hands in both AR and PR.

Consider the Full Analyst World

When the topic of analyst relations comes up in conversations, the first names mentioned are always Gartner and Forrester. Both of these firms can be considered industry behemoths as they undoubtedly have the greatest mindshare across nearly every vertical. Businesses end-user organizations leverage these firms for their unmatched industry visibility and deep-rooted strategic market understanding. Gartner analysts alone take up to 250,000 client inquiries every year.

A contract buys you direct feedback on customer pain points and product needs and have an analyst as your advocate to recommend your product to potential buyers. As it relates to overall market understanding, Gartner’s annual Magic Quadrant Report and Forrester’s annual Wave Report are touted as industry gold standards. Finding your way into the correct quadrant of one of these reports can do wonders for your business.

At the same time, while Gartner and IDC both can provide a significant amount of value to organizations, they should only be part of a company’s analyst relations mix. Before solidifying marketing budgets, startups and established companies alike should consider additional firms, many with specific industry expertise, that can help guide their marketing efforts.

IDC is unique in providing market sizing data. 451 Group and Enterprise Strategy Group are known for investigating the intersection of different emerging technology areas. Within security, market-specific firms such as Securosis have their pulse on the specific needs of IT security buyers. Seemingly obvious but often forgotten, the benefits of smaller firms are more direct access to the analysts for inquiry calls, and — what we consider to be the biggest value add — media influencer and PR support. Analysts are often willing to provide a quote for a press release or speak to the media about the benefits of your new product release. It’s not uncommon to see them quoted in trade press.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Beth Hespe at Ixia notes a few important best practices for ongoing analyst relations programs:

  • Planning & Coordination – Build in the time to target and secure your analysts, brief them and work with them. And make sure they’re available – nothing is worse than having your analyst on vacation during your launch and unavailable for interviews.
  • Leverage Your Efficiencies – Leverage efficiencies by scheduling campaigns in conjunction with a high profile industry event when target media, analysts and potential customers are in one place and at one time.
  • Consider Providing Customer Access – Consider customers and whether they’re available. Getting your customers together with your analysts and then as press references can provide extra validation that your campaign needs.

Marry AR, PR and Marketing

Hespe also notes how an analyst relations program can impact PR and marketing, and she challenges herself to find ways to integrate the efforts, leveraging analysts for more than just their traditionally thought of services. She uses them for quotes, supporting documents like white papers and blogs, events such as webinars and roundtables, large-scale surveys, and social support such as Twitter Q&A’s or videos. While some of these can be a substantial investment, you can leverage one analyst or firm to bundle your packages and ultimately save money.

At most organizations, those managing analyst relations and public relations often find themselves working under the same larger marketing umbrella; however, there are instances when these two teams operate in silos, with little contact. As the media landscape evolves, journalists’ and analysts’ roles increasingly meld together and the need for PR and AR to work in tandem becomes imperative. Especially as analysts roles morph into what can be considered “journ-analysts”(a type of influencer) who share their own opinions over Twitter or contribute articles to media outlets on a regular basis.

A truly successful marketing and communications program will bring forth strategic elements from both traditional PR and AR initiatives. If you’re not sure where to start, your PR firm often has insight and past experience to guide you.

How to Give Your Employees Real Benefits, Not Just Cheap Perks

Fancy perks don’t solve the work-life balance problem.

 

As any entrepreneur will attest, perhaps the most difficult tasks in running a business are attracting, retaining and supporting a strong workforce.

Common solutions to this problem come in the form of sweet perks, designed to showcase a company’s commitment to work-life balance. But, does providing unlimited vacation time, free meals and remote work options truly address your employees’ needs?

Point blank: No, perks alone do not do the job. Furthermore, balance is just a fairy tale. Work-life balance is an illusion and practically impossible to reach. Whatever work-life balance may be is subjective to individuals, making it virtually impossible to pin down universal perks, which can make work-life balance a reality for every employee. Consider how long the issue of work-life balance has been around, despite thousands of articles circulated around the topic.

Clearly, perks matter, but it doesn’t solve the issue of work-life balance.

Employers should aim for personalized fulfillment, based on the flexibility of giving each employee the work environment he or she needs. It’s about providing a challenging and engaging environment in which employees are empowered to take matters into their own hands. The feeling of balance, if reachable, is about granting employees control over how they work.

The faults of startup perks

Although perks are abundant in startups – especially in Silicon Valley — perks’ underlying nature is what actually keeps workers from being fulfilled and comfortable at work.

For one, the perks are presented as extras and not as normal aspects of a person’s job, erring on the side of work and not life. For example, free, daily lunch actually prevents people from leaving the office, getting fresh air and supporting local businesses.

Unlimited vacation time or work-from-home days have long been favored by many as an opportunity to achieve work-life balance, but often its subjection to manager discretion makes employees hesitant to take full advantage of this perk.

Ask anyone who has had the perk of unlimited time off, and they will tell you they actually take less time off and have no pay-out if they leave the company. Furthermore, don’t forget about the employee guilt involved in flexibility.

Working from home, in fact, leads to longer hours for most employees, when compared to those who don’t – usually because they feel like they could work more or that they slacked off.

Yes, it can be a great option for workers, who need to be at home more often, such as parents or people with long commutes. But just as many employees likely prefer to come into the office everyday due to roommate situations, lack of infrastructure or just a desire to be with the team.

Additionally, perks – like sleeping pods, on-premise dry cleaning and massages — are a guise for keeping employees at work longer. It undermines the feeling of fulfillment and the very idea of work-life balance because it all becomes part of the job.

Putting the power in their hands

Since the founding of Highwire Public Relations, I have placed a premium on making it a place in which all of our employees feel happy and fulfilled.

While balance is a goal for some people, I’ve personally felt most fulfilled at points when I’ve been extremely unbalanced.

While that pace may not be sustainable or desirable, the revelation is that balance is not something that can be scripted by day or week, team or office. Balance is highly personal and changes with tenure, life stage and opportunity.

We began by offering perks, like work-from-home days, summer Fridays, catered food and offsite events. But as I described above, universally applied perks alone couldn’t provide what we needed. So we pivoted and started asking our employees what they wanted – individually, not by office or department.

Unsurprisingly, it ranged from happy hours to more paid time off (PTO) days. And that’s when it clicked. Everyone has their own idea of work-life balance, and management would never be able to guess or fulfill them all. So instead, we focus on empowerment, and now, we ask employees to take happiness into their own hands. Ask for what you need; open your minds and hearts to new possibilities; support your colleagues; and trust them to do the same for you.

It’s worked. But don’t take my word for it, a recent paper published in American Sociological Review had a similar conclusion after examining the effect of Situation, Task, Actions, and Results (STAR), an organizational intervention designed to promote greater employee control over work time and greater supervisor support for workers’ personal lives.

According to the American Sociological Review, STAR reduced burnout, perceived stress and psychological distress, and increased job satisfaction.

The key is in allowing employees to work how they work best and the results speak for themselves. This isn’t a laissez-faire scenario, but employees should feel empowered to ask for what they want when they want it. Moreover, asking about employees’ lives outside of work provides a comfort and sense of belonging that sterile company perks, designed to keep you at the office, cannot.

In all, work-life balance is unachievable in the way most businesses approach it today. No matter how convenient or fun you make work, it’s still work. Organizations should instead opt to provide the agency for employees to work comfortably, and recognize that needs and desires change over time. It’s about giving up just the right amount of control because long hours do not equal better work. Happy employees do.

 

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur on May 28, 2017.

Tapping Into the Potential of Online Learning

Knowing what a client does is crucial for any PR professional. How can we effectively tell our client’s story without understanding their product, it’s value for customers and it’s impact on the overall industry?

In the tech sector, this can be a real challenge. Highwire works with clients that are deeply entrenched in their respective areas of tech (ex. IBM in data science, Zscaler in cloud security, IFTTT in IoT). Getting familiar with trends and technologies in these complex areas can take time and effort.

When I started working at Highwire almost two years ago, I was fresh out of college and far from tech-savvy. Terms like “developer” and “malware” were foreign to this communications major. To tackle a steep learning curve, I turned to an easily accessible educational resource: online courses.

Yound woman reading on her iPadEdtech is one of the fastest-growing segments in the education market. With sites like Lynda, Udemy, Coursera and Udacity, courses come in a variety of topics, time commitments (30 minutes to 3 weeks) and are often free. You also get access to professors from top universities like Stanford and Duke,minus the sky-high tuition.

I’ve made it a personal goal to complete an online course each quarter. So far I’ve learned t
he basics of data science, data governance and data analytics- all of which are key themes for my clients. While I can’t claim to be a data expert, I do feel more confident crafting stories for clients and having conversations with media. Who knew I would go from retaking high school pre-calculus to outlining the data lifecycle to my teammates!

I love when a concept “clicks” during an online course because I know the new knowledge will help me do my job better. The most successful people are usually lifelong learners, which is why curiosity is one of Highwire’s core values.

PR pros: Have you taken any online courses? Let us know what you’ve gained from them on Twitter @HighwirePR.

The Art of Bad Publicity

Is there a silver lining in today’s bad publicity?

It’s been widely reported that President Trump masqueraded as his own publicist in the 1970s, 80s and 90s in order to boast about his life. The president is the self-proclaimed master of “The Art of the Deal,” but does he also own the art of bad publicity?  And does his election victory in the face of campaign implosions, leaked scandals and myriad other crises support the old adage that there is no such thing as it?  

PR missteps, even crises, happen from time to time. The online world we live in means everything is amplified and “going viral” can happen in an instant. Seventy-two percent of customers trust online opinions as much as they trust their family and friends, according to Forrester Research. This means publicity, good or bad, is highly influential in a world where we’re constantly sharing and consuming information online.  Recent cases of messaging gone wrong have included Pepsi, Uber and United. While some of these brands have suffered serious damage, the question remains: is there a silver lining in any of this bad publicity?

Let’s take Pepsi’s widely mocked ad featuring Kendall Jenner, sister to Kim (Khloe, Kourtney…you know who we’re talking about). Yes, the food and beverage corporation issued an apology after the criticism, but it’s estimated that Pepsi got somewhere between $300 million and $400 million in free media coverage out of the controversy. To put that into perspective, then-candidate Trump earned $400 million worth of free media in February 2016 while campaigning, which is close to what Sen. John McCain spent on his ENTIRE 2008 presidential campaign. Additionally, Pepsi’s mentions on social media were up more than 7,000 percent the day the ad debuted, according to Brandwatch. In one day, Pepsi garnered 1.25 million mentions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Only just over half of those mentions were negative, means that just under half of that explosion of conversation was positive or neutral.  And that negativity might not have been as painful as you would expect. Analytics experts actually say that negative mentions are given somewhat less weight than positive or neutral mentions.  Whether intended or not, Pepsi got the whole world talking about them.

Moving to the airline industry, we recently touched on United’s woes (its stock price and reputation plummeted), but that calls to mind another carrier case. US Airlines once replied to a customer complaint tweeted at them with a pornographic image. The tweet stayed on the company’s profile for a full 60 minutes before it was removed, but not before it’d received 476 retweets. Here’s the thing: After the damage had been done, US Airlines actually gained 14,000 followers as result of the Twitter attention.

Lastly, it’s been an outright battle on the roadways between Uber and Lyft, as the rideshare giants compete to dominate the streets. Uber was plagued by scandal early in 2017, including the popular #DeleteUber hashtag campaign. Lyft, whose value is approximately 10 times smaller than Uber’s, has worked to capitalize on the good feelings surrounding their platform, announcing an opt-in app feature that allows riders to automatically route rounded-up ride charges to charity. But for all of Uber’s troubles, the question of whether the company has been hurt by all the negative publicity remains to be seen. Uber announced recently that their ridership numbers in the first 10 weeks of 2017 eclipsed those of early 2016, and an eventual public offering may be looming, as has been predicted.  

In describing publicity in “The Art of the Deal,” President Trump had this to say, “Good publicity is preferable to bad, but from a bottom-line perspective, bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all. Controversy, in short, sells.” So is any publicity good publicity? From a PR perspective, the battle to stand out from the crowd is fiercer than ever before. But where’s the line between good PR and bad? It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves.

We want to hear from you! What’s your take on the line between good PR and bad? Tweet us @HighwirePR.

What PR Pros Can Learn from United’s Blunders

The airline company boasts “friendly skies” but on the ground, not so much.

We’ve all seen the video, eye-rolled over CEO Oscar Munoz’s callous response, jaw-dropped over Munoz’s leaked email identifying the customer (David Dao, MMD) as “disruptive” and “belligerent” and witnessed United’s $1B financial fallout.

Long story short: United messed up. Big time.  

Less than a month after the airline found itself in the headlines for denying two girls from boarding their flight due their choice in attire, people are still buzzing about the company —and not for good reasons.

Crisis Comms 101

So what can we learn? If the scandal has taught us anything, it’s that United Airlines needs a lesson in crisis comms, and social media certainly has the power to escalate situations beyond our control. Case in point, just look at the backlash Pepsi saw after debuting a commercial depicting imagery from the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Using United as a case study in addressing public backlash, corporate comms teams could take a few notes:

  • Act quickly, but thoughtfully – The first mistake United made was issuing a long overdue statement to address the scandal. While the statement was meant to serve as an apology, the failure to apologize directly to the victim, nor recognize him by name, reflected the company’s intent to protect its own reputation versus its customers. When looking to resolve an already-mishandled situation, all perspectives should be considered. By apologizing for “having to re-accommodate” passengers instead of admitting what happened, the situation became dehumanized.
  • Don’t blame the victim – The first rule of customer service? “The customer is always right.” After Munoz issued his statement, a very one-sided email added fuel to the fire by essentially blaming the victim and his behavior for what resulted in his bloody nose. A smart move would have been to take a step back and recognize that ultimately, United was at fault for letting the situation get out of hand. While Munoz apologized for forcibly removing the victim from the flight, he neglected to acknowledge his initial response to the situation or choice of words in his internal note to United employees.
  • Own up to mistakes and learn from them  – While it’s hard to say what’s in store for the future of United Airlines, social media indicates that customers are fleeing. One thing that’s certain is the carrier won’t be able to bounce back from this quickly. And while they might be tempted to release statement after statement, the best thing United can do for now is stay silent until it releases its review on April 30. Since the offboarding scandal so closely follows the leggings controversy, United should look to its latest crisis as a learning experience — whether that entails re-evaluating its current customer policies or publicly acknowledging the faults of all involved.

What’s your take on the United scandal? Join the conversation @HighwirePR and let us know what you thought!

A Chicago Perspective on Branch Offices: How We Make Them Work

 

When teams try to function across a country or continent, they are bound to face their fair share of challenges. But, in the end, the pros absolutely outweigh the cons. It’s no surprise that regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed, has increased 103 percent since 2005, or that about 3 percent of the workforce now teleworks at least half the time.

Highwire is a perfect example of this trend. Our agency originally broke ground in San Francisco in 2008, and its fast success led to the opening of a Chicago office in 2012, a New York City office in 2015 and, most recently, a presence in Boston in December. We also have senior level employees who work full-time from Seattle and L.A.

Highwire PR_March2016_-2

Our Full Team!

Different Coasts for Different Folks

I’ve been able to experience and witness first-hand how our branch offices operate—both as their own entities and in the larger Highwire ecosystem—given my recent opportunity to spend a week in the Highwire New York office through our Red Rover program, a client meeting that landed me in the Boston office last week, and the fact that I operate permanently out of our Chicago space.

The New York office is as fast-paced as the city itself, with everyone hard at work at their desks if not scrambling to get into a conference room for an important meeting or jetting off to an industry event.

On the other coast, the San Francisco headquarters embodies the laid-back vibe of California while possessing the constant drive of Silicon Valley. Schedules are flexible while client expectations are not, and the office executes accordingly.

Our Chicago Team!

Our Chicago Team!

Chicago (my home base) lies between the two—both geographically and culturally. Our smaller size lends itself to a more casual and carefree atmosphere, but the quieter environment is also conducive to high-level productivity.

And Boston, our newest and smallest office to-date, possesses the scrappiness that’s only found in up-and-comers. The Boston crew is all about balance: exceeding client expectations while continually seeking out new opportunities for growth, relying upon one another along the way.

Communication Barriers Breed Collaboration

Ultimately, how these different offices come together and collaborate for the success of our clients is key — And given the fact that account teams often have members from more than one office, effective communication practices are crucial.

It’s true that internal communication can be sub-optimal when co-workers operate in separate offices. For instance, when water cooler chat turns into an important work discussion, that information is at risk of not being disseminated to the entire team. However, this is a problem even companies housed in one building may face, and Highwire uses multiple methods of inter-office communication to negate common obstacles.

For example, in addition to the obvious phone calls and emails that circulate internally in every company, everyone at Highwire is constantly available on Skype regardless of location. We take advantage of both the instant messaging and video chat functions on a regular basis (read: all day) in order to check in with colleagues across the country or across the office.

Additionally, almost every week there is a company-wide meeting over video—whether it’s an opportunity for professional development training or an all-hands announcement. These meetings give us the opportunity to come together virtually, from coast to coast and everywhere in-between.

The other obvious issue we run into when working with teammates across the country is the time difference, which can cause a bit of a wrinkle when it comes to scheduling these aforementioned meetings. After all, there are only five consecutive hours in the work day when all employees everywhere are at their desks, despite the eight hours of work we all put in.

But this apparent obstacle also affords certain benefits. The three-hour time difference from New York to San Francisco means that, as a whole, our company is officially operating 12 hours every day. This allows us to shift responsibilities strategically and rely on teamwork; i.e. East coast workers can get a jump on early announcements or breaking news while those on the West coast can help handle any requests that come in late in the day.

In the end, working for and managing a company with coast-to-coast offices that are intertwined in everyday work comes with its challenges, but the benefits far outweigh any setbacks—especially at Highwire.

CES 2017: Top Trends, Tips and Tricks

CES 2017

CES 2017 showed us that IoT, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence are still major conversation drivers.

What were the big trends of CES 2017? IoT, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence. This year we saw exciting advancements, especially in the IoT. And let’s not forget Alexa, the technology that stole everyone’s hearts. Here are some of the biggest trends we saw this year and the products behind them:

IoT Finally Connects the Dots

For the past few years, IoT devices have dominated the show floor at CES, but this is the first year we saw IoT products actually working together. A novel thought, no? This has always been the vision of IoT but instead of taking the next step in this “connected lifestyle” we’re trying to create, companies have crowded the market with new devices. The amount of integrations we saw with Alexa this year was a bit overwhelming, but it signals we might finally be going in the right direction. Yes, there are still hurdles to jump in IoT– particularly security and interoperability, but CES 2017 demonstrated we’re off to a good start.

Diversity Takes a Front Seat

Diversity has been a hot button topic in the tech space for years, with the criticism of low diversity growth hovering above companies from Google to Microsoft. But CES 2017 proved that we’re taking steps to combat this issue as an industry. A number of female-founded companies presented devices and gadgets geared towards women, including CEO Naomi Kelman of Willow, with a smart breast pump that slides into a nursing mother’s bra and allows for hands free pumping as well as Lea von Bidder of Ava and its fertility-tracking wristband.

The Consumer-Enterprise Crossover

The most impactful products — ones like standout star Amazon Alexa — will not solely be marketed or made for consumer-use, but will begin to offer enterprise use cases, as well. We saw this back in November, when Atlassian ecosystem partner, SoftServe, built out a function to allow Alexa to work with Atlassian’s HipChat platform. We will continue to see this trend as IoT evolves. After all, what worker doesn’t want a personal assistant?

Capturing the Media’s Attention

Whether you’re touting a veteran crowd pleaser or a break out star, the biggest obstacle at CES is getting in front of the right people. For companies attending the show this year, the timing was very difficult. Many members of the media arrived days before it started and left after the first day. But good news! The show dates are a week later: CES 2018 will be held January 9-12 (Tuesday to Friday), which gives us all an extra week to plan. With that in mind, we’ve put together a few tips for rising above the noise:

 

  • Start early: Start pitching press meetings and demos ahead of the show to shrink the competitive landscape. Press are grateful because they often find the show too large to see everything they want. The earlier you can get a product on a journalist’s radar, the better.
  • Pre-shows, pre-shows, pre-shows:  Pepcom, Showstoppers and CES Unveiled are simple solutions for presenting your product to press in an intimate venue. They quiet the noise of CES’s thirty-two thousand plus exhibitors and allow journalists to focus on your product.
  • Get on your feet: Don’t wait for journalists to find you. With over 170,000 attendees, most journalists can’t get through the entirety of CES, even in a full week’s time. You have to find them. Gather a portable version of your product and hit the aisles yourself!

 

Post co-authored by Stephanie Burke, Senior Account Executive, New York

Stephanie Burke is a senior account executive at Highwire PR. Stephanie supports corporate, consumer and enterprise technology clients, with an emphasis on campaign planning, media relations and events execution. From tech startups to today’s biggest brands, Stephanie supports and leads a variety of campaigns focused on building credibility and awareness of both products and brands.

 

 

Technology and PR: Why is PR So Far Behind Marketing?

The marketing technology landscape has been rapidly expanding over the past five years. In fact, Scott Brinker’s annual Martech Landscape Infographic shows more than a 2000 percent increase in marketing technology vendors since 2011. Yet, the PR section of his report remains relatively unchanged. What’s up with that?

I put this question to Altimeter Group marketing technology analyst (and the first writer to outline the battle field for the marketing cloud wars), Omar Akhtar.

“Tech is always ahead of people and PR happens to be an industry that’s dominated by people and relationships,” says Omar. “Technology has helped streamline and facilitate conversations but automation has been out of the question. However, it’s only a matter of time.”

Marketing Tech Landscape logo collage

Bottom left: PR’s slice of the marketing technology landscape as of 2016

The new era of measurement

According to Omar, measurement is generally the easiest problem for technology to solve in PR. It’s inevitable that the PR industry will be affected in the same way that advertising and marketing measurement has been overhauled.

Companies like TrendKite and AirPR are leading the charge when it comes to PR measurement technology and have been able to reduce time spent reporting by almost 75 percent (According to TrendKite research).

“Technology has led to smarter teams doing higher value work, with much of the drudgery now automated,” says Russ Somer, VP of Marketing at TrendKite.

He goes on to cite a recent presentation from the communications director at a major domestic airline who talked about allowing two days to turn around simple coverage reports and four days to deliver coverage reports with analysis.

“I felt like going up on stage to let her know that her measurement problems were over. Many leaders in PR don’t even realize that these tasks can be automated to the level in which we are doing it.”

Though not yet fully automated—TrendKite and other similar platforms still require customization of search terms to filter out low value media hits—the potential for artificial intelligence to essentially learn which coverage is of value to the company and which articles can be discarded will make instant reporting and analysis par for the course within the next couple of years.

These new measurement platforms are also starting to close the loop and show actions taken from articles. For example, being able to see how many website visits or sign ups are being driven by each piece of earned media.

According to Rebekah Iliff, AirPR’s chief strategy officer, PR’s legacy has been in surface-level metrics like impressions and advertising value equivalency (AVE), but digging deeper into the data can lead to insights for leadership and more effective PR programs.

“For example, a New York Times article might get thousands of eyeballs but fail to spark action with the target audience, while a smaller blog might drive a ton of sign ups and website visits,” explains Iliff. “Advanced analytics gives you the ability to see which outlets are generating better business outcomes so you can be more strategic in pitching media, investing resources to create stories for outlets that move the needle.”

Beyond metrics

Outside of measurement, it can be difficult to imagine how technology will be applied to an industry that relies so heavily on relationships and customized engagement. But one person wrestling with this is Joel Andren, CEO and founder of PitchFriendly.

Described by Andren as CRM for PR people, PitchFriendly helps PR professionals build lists and manage outreach in a similar way to Vocus/Cision, but rather than exporting lists it encourages teams to send pitches from within the app. Pitch templates can be put into the application with placeholders left for customization. Additionally, the system automatically flags media who have recently received pitches, and double-ups.

According to Andren, the company is integrating machine learning to automatically suggest media targets for a pitch based on the content of the pitch and analysis of recent articles by writers.

“Cision and Meltwater are all the same and, as a PR person, they don’t make you any better at your job. In marketing, the first technology is always about proving ROI. We are now building on this base layer of technology to improve how PR is executed,” says Andren.

“Think about every job you give to an intern. Those things should all be automated now, which can free up junior staff to invest more time in training. Technology has the power to automate the tasks that are causing all the employee turnover.”

Whether PR professionals embrace this in-app experience for media relations remains to be seen, and PitchFriendly enables users to engage with media via familiar interfaces like Gmail once the initial pitch has been sent – while continuing to track engagement behind the scenes. Gmail extensions like Mixmax offer similar functionality—the ability to create teams, assign contacts, schedule distributions and track clicks and opens—but don’t offer the deep PR-specific metrics on media engagement that PitchFriendly offers.

Will PR ever be fully automated? Not in the immediate future

PR is more of an art than a science.

Talking to the people driving advances in PR technology, it’s clear that the PR industry has a unique automation problem, which is also the source of great job security.

While data analytics, automation and artificial intelligence will certainly improve the efficiency of certain tasks within PR, the overall effectiveness of PR programs and campaigns will still largely come down to managing and drawing on a confluence of factors outside of the organization’s control. It’s more of an art than an observable and repeatable science.

According to Omar Akhtar, there will always be the need for Madmen and Mathmen (creativity in addition to data analysis)—we can’t rely on either one alone.

“There is always the chance that PR technology could replace people. But I’m convinced, there will always be a job for a clear and concise communicator,” says Akhtar.

“Technology could provide PR spammers easy low-value coverage, but it will be at the expense of the high-value media relationships. A higher level of [machine learning] discernment is needed before PR engagement can be automated,” adds Somer.

Even when it comes to measurement—the part of PR that is well-suited to automation—there are still intangible elements that make evaluating return on investment difficult.

“When PR is done well, there will always be an “X” factor and something that you can’t measure,” says Iliff. “But PR still needs to evolve in the same way that marketing and advertising have evolved with the help of technology.”

Where to Invest?

While PR wrestles with the complexity of relationships and colliding narratives, media budgets and headcount continue to fall. For instance, a negative byproduct of increasing marketing automation has been cut-price display ads and reduced advertising revenues for our friends in the newsroom. Just last month we saw more layoffs at eWEEK, InformationWeek and the Wall Street Journal.

As the pressure mounts for editors and journalists to do more with less, knowing how to break-through the noise of impersonal email to grab their attention will be increasingly valuable for PR people. Similarly, being aware of the digital shortcuts and tools media themselves are using to source content and story ideas is a key requirement for the modern PR person.

The data-driven insights that can be pulled from intelligent measurement and engagement platforms will go a long way to improving the effectiveness of human-to-human media engagement and showing the ROI of PR programs.

The technology we use at Highwire PR:

We’re interested in hearing from you. Where is your company/PR agency investing in PR technology? What new tools are you most excited about?

This blog originally posted on Bulldog Reporter.

3 Things to Know Before You Pitch a Journalist

Muck Rack and Mashable team up for a tell-all on pitching 101…

Constantly refreshing your inbox? Wondering if it’s too soon to call? Stalking social media profiles?

If it seems like pitching a reporter sounds a lot like dating, that’s probably because it is. And as a PR professional, you don’t want to come off too clingy, especially in the beginning of your “relationship.”

Mashable reporter Jason Abbruzzese (left) recently joined Muck Rack CEO Greg Galant (right) for a webinar on how to pitch journalists. So the next time you build up the courage to make a move on your desired journalist, consider the following:

Think long and hard about how to make your move

When it comes to pitching a journalist, first impressions are everything. You want to make sure your pitch is appealing, visually pleasing and relatable. Most importantly, you have to make sure the timing is right and start things off slow.

Journalists will be more responsive to those who take the time to get to know them rather than those who are just looking for coverage. Abbruzzese says, “I don’t care about who’s pitching me, but I tend to respond more to those who take the time to form a relationship with me.”

As for timing, most journalists prefer to be pitched mid-morning between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.—after they’ve had time to declutter their inboxes. But, of course, there’s always the exception to the rule.

“If you have a targeted pitch for a specific reporter, monitor when journalists are active on Twitter to get them while they’re online or taking a break,” Abbruzzese said.

Journalists like attention, but keep it subtle

According to Abbruzzese, journalists like when you follow them on social media, particularly Twitter. Not only is Twitter the most-valued social network, it serves as a way for journalists to let their readers know what they’re thinking and when. It can be a huge aid to pitching efforts.

“It’s fine to pitch a reporter you recently followed but be subtle,” says Abbruzzese. “Don’t ‘like’ my last 10 tweets, but interactions are key.”

It’s also good to keep in mind that journalists—just like you—are constantly checking their social media to see who’s giving them the most attention and who’s giving too much attention to too many journalists.

“If you’re a PR professional, you don’t want journalists to see you’ve been tweeting multiple people,” Abbruzzese said. But “journalists feel validated when they see their stories being shared [on Twitter].”

Accept that maybe they’re just not that into you

Maybe you got lucky and secured some initial interest from a journalist. Maybe it seemed like things were going well. But sometimes you just have to accept that the feeling wasn’t mutual and move on to the next.

For those who need some closure, the top reasons journalists tend to reject PR professionals are:

  • There’s no connection. “Personalized [pitches] or not doesn’t matter,” Abbruzzese said. “But PR pros should at least have an awareness of the publication and the journalist’s beat.” Simply put, you need to make an effort to get to know the person you’re pitching if you want a media relationship that will last.
  • You called one too many times. Journalists are (very busy) people too, with most receiving upwards of a few dozen pitches a day, according to Abbruzzese. The sad reality is most pitches don’t get a reply. Carefully read your situation to understand whether it’s OK to follow up.
  • You talked way too much. Before you make your move, make sure your pitch is as concise as possible. Abbruzzese says starting an email with, “Hey, saw your story and thought…” or “loved your piece on so and so” are immediate red flags.

So the next time you consider starting a new media relationship, remember to take things slow, show interest and don’t take it too personal if you get a rejection.

Interested in more pitching pointers? Follow us on Twitter @HighwirePR.

Note: All data is from Muck Rack’s Webinar “How Journalists Prefer to be Pitched” hosted by Greg Galant on Aug. 30, 2016.