Highwire Talks Security with Black Hat Communications Director

Blackhat 2016 event logo

 

One of the biggest global security events in the world, Black Hat has been providing attendees with the latest in research for over 18 years. Participants can enjoy learning from information security luminaries about various developments and trends in the industry. As you think about how to present new or interesting perspective this year, take a look at our survey findings from last year’s Black Hat, particularly the part about overused buzzwords, as you may want to eliminate some of the most commonly used jargon from your content.

With the event fast approaching on July 30, Highwire took the opportunity to speak with Meredith Corley, director of PR & communications for UBM—the company that puts on Black Hat every year—to gain some insider knowledge that will prove useful for PR professionals and security companies.

Q: What is the number one strategy you can offer companies as they prepare to pitch media at Black Hat?

A: Remember that these members of the media and analyst community are the crème de la crème of the InfoSec reporting world—so do your research! And I don’t just mean on their specific beat, that’s a given. My research advice is the following:

1) Pitch the Goods: With so much dynamic content on stage, running alongside big research report releases and innovative product launches from the show floor (all vying for their attention & time slots), now is not the time to do a generic email blast. Before you work to set up that briefing or meetup, ask yourself: How does this news break the mold, challenge the status quo or take our industry in a new direction? With a product launch, how specifically will your new product or service solve an existing problem or void? Any cool demos to share? Alternatively how will your perspective help dig into an existing industry hot button issue or theme with a fresh (or challenging) perspective? Are you offering up special access to key thought leaders or research? Is there a new finding that will change the course of the current dialogue?

If you can’t answer these with an elevator pitch before pressing ‘send’ on that email, hold off. Media get a ton of email leading up to the show, so make it count.

2) Expand Your International Contacts: Does your company have international roots or hope to take their products and services global? Don’t forget to research the many international members of the media that join us onsite every year. We have massive news agencies, trade journals and analysts join us from as far as Australia,  many parts of Asia, Europe, S. America and everywhere in between. Now is your chance to build those valuable relationships with key international stakeholders for your brand all in one place. Don’t miss out.

Q: How do you select which companies get their own mini press conferences in the Black Hat press room?

A: We work closely with the Black Hat Review Board and journalist community to get a sense of what is really going to be “hot” onsite—big themes, impactful vulnerability disclosures, big name speakers or government officials, and controversial topics discussed by distinguished resources.

Press conferences are highly selective and are typically reserved for Black Hat speakers that will be presenting during the show. Sometimes we will group them by theme (e.g. “mobile vulnerabilities”) while other times it will be a solo session (e.g. keynote presentation or completely unique topic that stands apart from the rest).

If your company or client is speaking at Black Hat this year and you think the topic fits the bill, drop us a note: BlackHatPR@ubm.com.

Q: What do you think the top trends will be at this year’s show based on what you’re seeing across the top sessions and/or media requests?

A: Aside from the headline-making and completely unique vulnerabilities and research (a lá car hacks, new ways to take over ATMs, and medical device weaknesses and defense), I would say that one of the top trends this year is what we collectively call “Platform Security.” We also saw more submissions than ever around vulnerabilities (and defenses) in top operating systems and virtual machines.

Unsurprisingly, Internet of Things (IoT) is also a big theme again this year as everything we know becomes increasingly “smart.”

Also, talks this year really run the gamut—and they should, since we received more submissions this year than any year prior. The Review Board really had their work cut out for them to pick the best of the best. There are quite a few great enterprise system-related briefings, some really smart research across all things mobile, and even a whole track of talks in the “human factors” category, which covers everything from phishing to the actual success rates of malicious actors dropping USBs in parking lots to name a few.

Q: Anything new or different taking place at the show this year that we should know about?

A: Glad you asked—Yes!

New to Black Hat? If you, your team members or your client(s) are newbies to Black Hat, we’ve got you covered. ALL pass types are invited to join us for Black Hat Day Zero —a first-timer’s guide to making the most of Black Hat. Here, new attendees can come a day early (Tuesday, Aug. 2) to learn what to expect on site, how to make the most of their time and even how to keep their devices safe on the show network. (Don’t forget your tinfoil hat…) There will be a welcome reception for some good mingling after the sessions.

Closing the Gap: Despite more attention to the issue, the needle just hasn’t moved all that much on the dramatic underrepresentation of women and minorities in the security industry, even as the talent gap deepens. I would encourage you and your colleagues to check out this fantastic panel, “Removing Roadblocks to Diversity,” on Thursday, Aug. 4, with a pretty stellar lineup. It includes moderator Kelly Jackson Higgins, executive editor of Dark Reading, with Jamesha Fisher, security operations engineer at GitHub; Elena Kvochko, head of global cyber security strategy and implementation at Barclays; Angie Leifson, security operations center (SOC) analyst at Insight Enterprises; and Chenxi Wang, chief strategy officer of Twistlock.

**Tip: this is first-come, first-served—so get there a little early to reserve a seat.

Other neat new and exciting things on site include a hands-on Kali Linux Lab for ALL pass types on Thursday, Aug. 4. And I’d highly recommend checking out the Black Hat Arsenal if you’re looking for real-time demos—this year marks the largest tool lineup yet with 80 to be presented on site.

Meredith Corley is the director, PR and communications, at UBM Americas. Find her on Twitter @MeredithCorley or LinkedIn.

Inside The Newsroom: Bloomberg’s Pitching Playbook

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 11.33.12 AM

Bloomberg editors share their thoughts on how pitch successfully

As one of the most influential business publications in the world, reaching millions of people from 150 bureaus around the world, Bloomberg looms large in the world of PR. Securing a thoughtful and strategic business story in Bloomberg can make your client’s day. Unfortunately, every other PR professional knows that too. With so much competition, it can be a challenge to convince a reporter that yours is the story that will interest their readers.

At a panel discussion in Bloomberg’s San Francisco Bureau last Tuesday, three Bloomberg editors – Brad Stone, the senior executive editor heading up Bloomberg’s Technology reporting; Mark Milian, a tech editor overseeing startups and venture capital; and Danielle Culbertson, the managing editor of Bloomberg TV and Radio in San Francisco – shared their thoughts on how to capture a reporter’s attention. Here are the three main takeaways from their discussion.

Informed, Short and Sharp

When asked about pitching, all the panelists agreed that the best pitches share two common traits: they are well researched and concise.

At a global publication like Bloomberg, each reporter writes on a specific beats but also has his or her own specific interests. Even though it takes time and effort, reading their stories and identifying the reporter’s interests goes a long way towards capturing their attention.

“If you say ‘I read these five stories you wrote and I think you’ll be interested in this story because…’ no reporter can resist,” said Milian. “You’ll at least get them to read your pitch.”

The other point to remember is that reporters get a lot of pitches. Getting to the point quickly will go a long way towards getting a reporter to read your pitch. It is easy to fall into the temptation of trying to share your client’s whole life story in one email, but this creates an intimidating body of text that a time-restricted reporter is likely to delete/ignore, and often buries the most interesting point. There will be time to share key messages and background later in the press release or during an interview. Panelists said that using bullet points instead of paragraphs can go a long way towards breaking through an email triage test.

Unfortunately, even a precise pitch will fail if it can’t meet one major benchmark.

Is It Interesting?

Though it is hardly a new rule, the panelists said the benchmark to keep in mind when reaching out to a reporter is: “Is it interesting?”

As extensions of our clients’ teams, it is easy to get invested in their story. So sometimes it helps to take a step back, forget everything you know about your client and ask yourself who will take the time to read this story if it gets published. If you do not immediately include yourself (among others), it may be time to brainstorm a new angle.

Also remember that it is not just the reporter’s interest you have to capture, but their readers’. In the case of Bloomberg, the readers are informed businesspeople and investors. When considering what story you want to tell, the panelists recommended keeping it broad enough to appeal to people who may not have specific technical knowledge.

The Role of Editors

While it differs from publication to publication, at Bloomberg the editors view their role as focused on supporting the writers rather than dictating content.

“I see my role as more developing story ideas and reviewing copy,” Stone said.

While the panelists said that they are usually more than happy to forward a pitch to right person, it is the writers who are interacting with the breaking news and proposing stories. Reaching out to and building a relationship with the reporter who most closely aligns with your company is the most likely path to success.

Do these tips align with your experience when working with media? Connect with us on Twitter and let us know your thoughts on building enduring reporter relationships.

Investing in Our Future: Corporate Social Responsibility

24768808535_f121f2914e

Investing in Your Brand — What You Need to Know

What draws you to a brand? Is it their logo, their name or their values?

For most, it’s brand awareness fueled by a personal connection to the brand and company. Apple, Lego and the Walt Disney Company are examples of companies who exemplify this personal connection. What each also has in common is a sense of corporate social responsibility (CSR) at their core.  A CSR program touches everything from products to business decisions, serving as the glue, solidifying customer loyalty.  If you are thinking about launching your own CSR campaign or trying to reinvigorate the connection your business has with its customers, here are the reasons why 64 percent of CEOs are increasing their investments in corporate social responsibility this year.

Community Impact and Engagement: A CSR program can mean many things–supporting causes, exerting positive societal influence, and displaying environmental responsibility to name a few.  Salesforce and Highwire client InsideSales.com for example have a 1-1-1 model, where each company dedicates one percent of their product, revenue and employees’ time to impact lives for good. Whether by volunteering with local nonprofits (think about the causes that matter to your employees) or funding programs such as education and technology innovation, these investments make a large impact on both the local community and employees, fueling brand perceptions and recruiting efforts. InsideSales.com and its Do Good Foundation was recently recognized by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce for not only succeeding in its industry but also making an impact in the local community, giving back to its roots and having a positive effect in the region.

Build Trust – Invest in Your Company’s Future: CSR builds trust with employees and customers. It also creates more engaged employees and employees that are 38 percent more loyal.  When thinking about how to inspire your employees and build trust think about the initiatives that you can take on that map back to who you are as a business. How does your founding story inspire who you want to become and how you want to be perceived? Answering these questions will help your business build trust organically and authentically.

One great example is Highwire client Twilio. From the beginning, Twilio’s origins centered around nine core values that touched every part of the business from building products to running the business. As a company built by developers, Twilio likes to celebrates the doers – those people and companies within their community that are using technology in awesome ways. So in 2013, Twilio launched its nonprofit arm Twilio.org to give nonprofits access to the same technologies Fortune 500s are using. The result is a growing number of nonprofits that use Twilio’s cloud communications to solve some of the world’s problems. Examples include the Polaris Project rescuing victims of human trafficking, Doctors Without Borders building better care programs for tuberculosis patients and even reducing disaster response times by 50 percent for the American Red Cross. For Twilio, staying true to its roots and its core value helped it to launch an initiative that will not only help grow its business but also create a company that employees can feel proud to work for.

Value Enhancing: Consumers are demanding more from brands, increasingly rewarding companies whose services and products are both good for them and good for society. This demand also occurs in the workplace as prospective employees look for companies whose core values match their own. A CSR program helps with this outward perception, improving how outside third parties think about a brand. If you need more convincing, a recent Harvard Business School study found that investments in sustainability issues are “shareholder-value increasing” – meaning communicating your CSR program will impact your bottom line.

Have you successfully launched a CSR program? What’s your story?

Content is King: PR and Marketing’s New Focus

Content Becomes Lynchpin in PR and Marketing Programs for 2016

Those of us in content have been touting this claim for years, but it’s nice to come across data that validates content as king. A recent Marketwired survey of PR, IR and marketing professionals found the that content marketing is rapidly growing in importance.

Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents currently have a content marketing program in place, and a majority plan to increase (64 percent) or maintain (22 percent) those efforts throughout the year.

 

Other highlights include:

  • *  Blog posts (55 percent), images (29 percent) and news (24 percent) were identified as the most used forms of content.
  • *  Influencers and brand advocates are being used by 61 percent of respondents to amplify their content to reach new audiences and increase overall engagement.
  • *  At least half of respondents use visuals on a weekly basis, and an impressive 30 percent do so daily.
  • *  Visual content is most often shared on Twitter (75 percent), Facebook (73 percent) and LinkedIn (63 percent) with Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest being popular alternatives.
  • *  Most respondents do still believe that earned media efforts is a top priority, but owned media—like blogs, tip sheets, case studies, infographics, etc.—are a close second.
  • *  In all of this, seeing the returns on investment are important. As such 77 percent of respondents measure their content efforts—”what’s worth doing, is worth measuring.”

 

Ultimately, the survey validated the importance of content for PR and marketing campaigns, and key role in supporting overall business objectives. Quality content is rising to the top as more and more consumers seek out educational collateral that doesn’t sell them but helps them in their decision making process.

Are you telling personal brand stories, boosting customer advocacy and generating leads for your sales team with high-caliber content that attracts customers and keeps them coming back? If not, stop lagging and catch up because it’s ringing loud and clear: “Content is king!”

For deeper dive on the topic and survey, check out Marketwired’s infographic, “Will You Be A #ContentMachine in 2016?”

Making a Social Media Splash at a Conference (When You’re Not the One Attending)

CalebAs we kickoff 2016, many of our clients here at Highwire are already thinking about the major industry events of the year. Our consumer teams have just finished up an exciting Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the digital health practice is preparing for Healthcare and Information Management Society conference (HIMSS) and the security practice is already starting preparations for about the biggest security conference of the year—RSA.

With social media now such an integral part of the corporate identity, it has become an increasingly important tool for making an impact at a trade conference. However, often times those running these social channels aren’t actually ATTENDING the show.

So, how can you make a social splash at a conference when you aren’t physically present?

Before the conference

Do your research

Before anyone steps foot on the conference floor, there is a good amount of groundwork to be done ahead of time to ensure on-site time is well spent. For instance, as the social media manager, your first responsibility is to identify any hashtags that are tied to the show. If you are attending RSA, you’ll want to know which hashtag will be the most popular—will it be #RSA2016 #RSAConf or #2016RSA? Are different target audiences using a particular  one? Make sure you keep an eye out for any shifts  in hashtag usage throughout the show. To do this, there are great social media tools like Hashtagify that can help you monitor for what is trending.

In order to make the show a success, you’ll also need ambassadors on the ground feeding you information and images. Find out which of your team members will be on the conference floor and who will be attending which sessions and connect with them ahead of time. Ask that they send you content throughout the conference—photos, videos, interesting conversation topics—that will help you stay in the conversation although you aren’t physically there. Be sure you have their direct contact information, and give them yours! Remember that these team members are likely busy running around the expo floor, so don’t be afraid to remind them to send you content throughout the event.

If your team is looking to connect with media who are attending the conference, you’ll want to investigate who will be there before the conference starts. Additionally, be sure to follow them on Twitter and other relevant social channels. This will make it easier for you to monitor Twitter and other feeds to see if a reporter is focusing on an area of mutual interest, attending one of your talks, or is looking for commentary from vendors.

Tease out your participation

Make sure you let your followers know that you plan to be at the show, and let them know where they can find you. Share your booth number and the dates and times of any talks your executives may be giving. Are you planning to give away any swag? Hosting a contest? Share this with your followers in a timely manner so that they know what to expect. If you have a regularly scheduled email newsletter that goes out to customers and prospects, make sure to include a mention of your participation in the editions preceding the event.

Social media can also help you make an impact beyond traditional PR and gain you new followers. Find out from your team what your key target verticals are and do some research to see if any potential customers may be at the show. If your sales team is looking to make a connection you can help by engaging with potential customers over social media. Be sure to check the list of conference sponsors before the show begins and connect with your team to see if there is anyone on their target list that you can start to monitor.

BlackHatClientsDuring the conference

Monitor for any changing trends. Keep a close eye on the conference hashtags and make sure you adjust your social posts according to what is trending. For example, perhaps #BlackHat2015 started out with the most traction, but by the end of the conference conversations may have switched to #BHUSA. Your social content should also make that switch.

Keep your eyes peeled for any breaking news or especially popular conference hashtags. If Twitter is suddenly talking about the researcher who hacked into a satellite, a keynote talk by Alec Baldwin or the Stagefright exploit that rocked Android phones, you don’t want to miss out on chiming in. .

It’s important to engage in social media conversations, not just push out promotional messages. Work with your team on the ground to share interesting topics or their opinions about interesting talks, and connect with reporters who are looking for commentary on any new stories. If your company is giving away free gear, promote to attendees using social media to encourage them to come talk to your team.

Since you are not at the show, staying in close communication with those who are on the ground is extremely important. Be sure to ask the team early and often for photos, quotes and videos that can be shared across your social channels. Visuals can add variety and extra personality to your feed. Remember, don’t be afraid to share photos of your team having fun! Photos of employees sharing a drink, talking with other influencers, or speaking on a stage at industry events frequently outperform your typical corporate content.

Social sharing shouldn’t stop at the official corporate channels either. Encourage members of the team to share, retweet and repost your content! With each share, the life of your content—and its reach—is extended.

After the conference

The booth may go down and the conference hashtags may be dormant, but your work as social media manager is not done. Be sure to share any potential leads you may have uncovered with your team. Most importantly, think about ways that you can extend the life of the great experiences, photos and quotes that you received during the event. Consider whether you may be able to craft a blog post surrounding key findings from the event or develop a series of visual quote cards with interesting takeaways to publish over time.

While it may seem daunting to be tasked with managing social media for an event you’re not attending, it is possible to do so successfully. All it takes is some pre-planning, and lots of team collaboration and communication.

How to Make Your Product Pop at Press Events

 

IMG_3071

Everything you wanted to know about running a successful tradeshow

For most, the majority of December is allocated towards quality time with friends and family. Except for those of us who work in consumer tech; for us, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year courtesy of the biggest consumer technology conference — CES.

The Consumer Electronics Show, which kicked off this week, features the latest and greatest in all things consumer tech. Once thought of as the only place to launch new products, several big-name companies have opted out of the conference in recent years in favor of a less crowded and expensive platform in which to announce their latest news (Here’s looking at you, Facebook and Apple). With that, many key media have announced their retirement from the CES stage as well, opting for more intimate press gatherings that focus on a select group of new products and participants.

Pepcom, ShowStoppers and the like allow companies to get in front of top tier media by organizing small mixers at startup-friendly prices. Although much more intimate than mega conferences like CES, it can still be tough to stand out in the crowd. That’s why the team here at Highwire suggests focusing on identifying creative ways to bring your booth to life in order to ensure you get the most value out of these shows.

IMG_3473

Develop Creative Ways to Stand Out

With a sea of booths on a showfloor, it’s important that you make sure your exhibits stand out and appeal to both journalists and consumers stopping by to check out your product. Consider doing something out of the box or unexpected to draw more people to your booth.

At CE Week this past summer, the Piper team rented a branded ice cream stand to raise awareness of the company and also treat attendees to an icy treat. Similarly, the Gyft team gave out branded cupcakes at Pepcom Holiday Spectacular, which was a great way for people to remember the company in the moment and later at home when they were enjoying their treat. In addition to food, show swag can also be a big draw to your booth at a press event.

Giveaways that relate back to your brand can be a big hit. For instance, at CES, Edyn gave away branded seed packets to tie into the garden theme of the product. At SXSW earlier this year, Piper sponsored an exclusive networking event and gave away a select number of passes on social media. Engaging the festival attendees created more brand awareness for Piper and allowed the company to garner a strong following at the event so they could learn when the next giveaway would take place.

 

IMG_2842

Engage Your Audience Through Interactive Demos

In addition to unique booth giveaways, companies should consider interactive demos to keep people at the booth and interested in the products. Take a cue from the Edyn team, who last year constructed an actual garden demo at CES complete with dirt, plants and their flagship Edyn Garden Sensor. The live demo provided a way for reporters to visualize the product and imagine how they would use it in their own gardens. At a recent Pepcom event, Gyft offered attendees the opportunity to sign up for Gyft on a giant tablet and send away a free gift card. Once people were able to walk through and try the app first-hand, they instantly saw how game-changing Gyft is and also got to keep a little something for themselves.

A great booth and creative giveaways don’t guarantee coverage, however, meaning that you’ll have to get out and mingle! Approaching strangers can be a nerve racking experience, especially when trying to sell a product. So nerve racking, in fact, that there are numerous books and classes focused on the art of pitching. As PR pros, we’re accustomed to pitching our products every day, albeit most often by email and/or phone. With the right preparation, however, anyone can tackle the aisles of Pepcom with pizzaz.

Practice Your Elevator Pitch

When on the show floor, you have less than 60 seconds to catch a reporter’s attention. Because of this, it is important that you are able to deliver a quick, digestible and on-message explanation of your product — on demand. Writing down, memorizing and practicing your elevator pitch in advance will help you come across clearly and articulately, while keeping you from any media mis-steps and showing reporters that you value and respect their time.

Have Your Product on Hand

A great elevator pitch can take you far, but when it comes to showing versus telling, a product demonstration will almost certainly take you one step closer to success. Having a product on hand, or nearby, is a great way to explain to journalists in real time how the product works to fulfill its dedicated use cases. If you can arrange for a live demonstration, like Piper coordinated at this year’s Emmy’s gifting suite, you’re almost guaranteed to seal the deal.

Location, Location, Location

Reeling the press in is a lot simpler if you’re in a location that drives a lot traffic, for example: a booth near the front entrance, a bar or food station.  Not only will you get a first look at who is attending, but you’ll be able to snag your favorite writer without having to hail him down from across the room. Who knows, you might also bond over your love for gin and tonics.

What has your experience been like at trade shows? Connect with us on social or share your comments below!

 

 

post co-authored by Rebecca Buttle Peri, Account Executive.

Rebecca Buttle Peri is an experienced public relations manager and media relations specialist with expertise in the rapidly evolving tech, mobile and entertainment spaces, having managed national and international campaigns for several enterprise and consumer tech accounts within a variety of sectors. Rebecca holds a BA in creative writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Simple Tips for Tweet Chat Triumph

SONY DSCSocial media has become a powerful component of PR and communication campaigns for brands big and small.

Twitter, in particular, offers a huge opportunity to gain visibility—companies can share their news, voice their professional opinions and even participate in or host specialized discussions, known as tweet chats or Twitter chats. By simply participating in these chats, brands can gain both social exposure and followers.

As a PR professional, I encourage you to take it one step further by hosting a tweet chat of your own. In doing so, brands can further strengthen their voice within their niche communities and directly engage with other thought leaders in their fields. These chats can be recurring (monthly, quarterly, etc.) or spontaneously tied to client news or events.

Ready to get started? I’ve outlined a few key steps to ensure a successful tweet chat.

Pre-chat prep to ensure a lively conversation

Most of the work that goes into hosting a tweet chat happens before the event actually occurs.

First and foremost, you should pick a chat topic for which your internal thought leader can serve as an expert. Anything too broad could result in too long of a chat session, so a specific angle or subtopic works well. For example, an email marketing company might want to host a chat on the basics of A/B split testing.  

Next, decide if your brand wants to partner with an outside expert or influencer in the field. This tactic will bring higher visibility to the chat and also add an extra layer of legitimacy to the session. Not sure who the right person is for your topic? You can use Twitter itself to find viable influencers and approach them about co-hosting a chat.

Once you have an expert co-host on board (or if you choose to proceed without one), you can get started on the basics. When scheduling the chat, aim for 30-60 minutes. Make sure your date is at least a month out so you have ample time to promote it. Additionally, create a unique hashtag for promotion and participation purposes. The hashtag is how your participants engage with you throughout the chat, so take the time to ensure you come up with something short and memorable.

When these tasks are out of the way, focus on the structure and content of the chat. In addition to the outside expert, determine who on the brand’s side will participate and what role they will have during the chat. One suggestion is to have two people on the brand’s side involved—one operating the brand’s handle, running the chat and posing the questions, and another (the one you are leveraging as the thought leader) on their personal handle, responding to the questions.

For content, draft the questions the moderator will be asking and responses the thought leader will be offering ahead of time (keeping in mind the 140-character rule, including the hashtag). Tweet chats can move quickly, and this trick will help participants stay up to speed. For a one-hour chat, draft around 8-10 questions. If time allows, it’s a best practice to create images that include each question. This makes the chat’s questions prominent in participants’ twitter feed, ensuring questions don’t get lost in the conversation.

Lastly, promote promote promote. Take to Twitter to communicate save-the-date messages. Create a simple image with the basic chat details and hashtag to catch followers’ eyes. Write a promotional blog and post it on your website. Send e-invites to friendly media folks so they can either participate or monitor the chat in real time. Identify individuals who are active in similarly themed chats and directly tweet at them inviting them to your chat.

Managing mid-chat

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, the chat can practically run itself. That said, one piece of advice is to have all participants dial into a conference number a few minutes before the chat is set to begin. This will allow for quick intros of the influencer to the brand participants, and the ability to address any last minute questions. Have everyone stay dialed in with their phones on mute for the duration of the chat; if the need for direct communication between you, the client or the partner expert comes up, you’ll have a means of instant access.

At the top of the chat, the moderator should thank attendees for coming; directly tweet them if you have time, but don’t wait too long to get the ball rolling. Have the moderator pose the first question and allow for the “experts” to weigh in with their pre-scripted responses. Give ample time for chat attendees to ask or respond to questions, and be sure that the moderator favorites and retweets some of the responses in real time. Allow for about 5-7 minutes between each question before asking the next.

Encourage your chat hosts to not just stick to the script but to also offer off-the-cuff responses to some of the questions—they should feed off of the conversation as it flows in order to not sound too groomed.

Post-chat repurposing

Lastly, the value of a tweet chat is not limited to only the 30 or 60 minutes in which it occurs. You can extend its shelf life by using the material to create further content, such as blog posts, infographics or SlideShares highlighting the top takeaways from the chat.

For instance, Highwire client Corvisa recently teamed up with customer service expert Shep Hyken to host a twitter chat, “Today’s Customers: What Do They Really Want?” Afterward, Corvisa repurposed the content of the chat for a recap blog.

If you are ready to engage with your brand’s audience and fellow thought leaders like Corvisa did, get the creative process started by checking out some upcoming chats to see what’s trending in your industry’s social spaces. Whether it’s a first and only or the first of many, tweet chats are a must-try for any brand.

FTC Disclosure Guidelines: What You (and Kim Kardashian) Need to Know

Kim Kardashian Instagram Morning Sickness Post

Image credit: Forbes

A contentious disclosure by Kim Kardashian recently put endorsement transparency and FTC-compliance back on the agenda.

The controversy revolved around an Instagram post in which she claimed to be “so excited and happy” after using Diclegis, an anti-nausea drug, that she was “partnering” with the company “to raise awareness about treating morning sickness.”

Of course, the makers of Diclegis had paid Kim to make the statement. But was the subtle “partnering” disclosure enough?

According to the FTC, the same consumer protection laws against “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” that apply to commercial activities in other media apply online, including activities on social media and in mobile channels.

FTC guidelines state that disclosure needs to occur whenever a company provides a third-party content producer (celebrities included) some form of compensation. This could take the form of money, gifts, and complimentary services.

In addition, the burden is on the brand to ensure the content producer uses the appropriate disclosure. This means the FTC expects a representative from the brand to contact the influencer/blogger with guidance on how to disclose effectively if the blogger has not been clear on the dealings with the brand.

Disclosure can take many forms. At a basic level it is a public acknowledgement that a relationship exists between the content producer and the brand. For example, adding #client to the end of a Tweet, or mentioning a brand’s generous offer of free product at the beginning of a blog featuring the product are both legitimate forms of disclosure.

To make a disclosure clear and conspicuous, advertisers/marketers/communicators should consider:

Placement & Proximity: The placement of the disclosure in the advertisement and its proximity to the claim. For example, it can’t just be added to the bottom of the blog post.

Prominence: It is the communicator’s responsibility to draw attention to the required disclosures. This can be done through ensuring the disclosure is the appropriate format – text size, color – and that it’s not overwhelmed by other content and buried in text.

Distractions: Organizations cannot actively direct attention away from the disclosure, distracting the consumer of the content.

Repetition: Is one disclosure enough? Or does the disclosure need to be repeated to be effective? Consider how audience is consuming the message, and is it possible for them to have missed the disclosure. For example, including “we tweet about our clients” on a PR agency’s profile page isn’t adequate, as most people don’t view tweets on the profile page. Instead, a disclosure needs to be made with each individual tweet.

Language: Is the language of the disclosure understandable to the intended audience? If you are targeting a consumer audience, it should not be framed in technical language or legal speak.

Check out the FTC website for the comprehensive disclosure guide.

Taking these guidelines into consideration, it’s probably safe to say the use of the word “partnering” was too vague and ambiguous. Kim and Diclegis messed up.

When in doubt it’s best for brands (and the influencers they work with) to lean on the side of clarity and transparency.

What does your company’s social media policy say about disclosure and transparency? And when was the last time you circulated it around the organization to remind employees of their disclosure obligations?

Minimizing Your Public Speaking Anxiety: 4 Top Tips I’ve Learned from Toastmasters

champagne-160866_1280

In the world of PR, public speaking is critical for success. You must be able to speak eloquently and professionally with your coworkers, clients, journalists and other professionals in the industry. But the reality for most of us is that public speaking is terrifying. In fact, the fear of public speaking (glossophobia) is the No. 1 ranked phobia above fear of death (necrophobia) and fear of spiders (arachnophobia). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, glossophobia affects nearly 75 percent of individuals. However, overcoming this fear and minimizing the anxiety of public speaking is achievable, no matter your age or what stage you are in your career. 

Earlier this year I had the privilege of joining a Bay Area Toastmasters group, and it has been a beyond-amazing experience. Toastmasters is a group of local professionals who get together on a weekly basis to practice and build their public speaking skills. Through a sense of camaraderie, practice and feedback, we are on a mission to feel confident and comfortable when faced with the challenge – or really, opportunity – to speak in front of an audience.

Initially, joining the Toastmasters group was a bit intimidating. But after a few meetings, I realized this was a great selection of undeniably supportive individuals that were going to help me succeed. I’ve been going to Toastmasters for almost six months now, and looking back I’ve realized that the experience has taught me more than this post can fit. But in an effort to share some of the best takeaways, here are a few of my top tips:

Start with a structured storyline: Whether you’re writing a pitch, press release or even just an email to a client, everything should have a structured storyline: intro – body – conclusion. Being able to speak or write with a framework in mind will keep your audience engaged and allow them to effectively follow your key messages

Keep it short and sweet and you’ll succeed: If you know anything about PR, you know it’s a fast-paced industry. Your time is precious and so is everybody else’s!  So stay organized and concise. In Toastmasters, the longest speech is a maximum of 8-10 minutes, with most between 5-6 minutes. When speaking with somebody on the phone or in-person—whether it’s a client call, pitching a journalist or talking to a coworker—be mindful of their time and get to your key points quickly. They will appreciate your consideration and you’ll free up time to get back to what’s at hand.

Like, minimize your.. um.. filler words: Let’s face it, we all use the common “like” or “um” on occasion, but try to minimize the frequency of them as much as possible. At every Toastmasters meeting, we have an assigned grammarian, whose role is to monitor and count each person’s use of filler words (e.g. like, um, but, so, etc.) And trust me, the people you’re talking to will notice them much more than you notice yourself. The next time you’re talking to a friend or coworker, pay extra attention to your use of “likes” or “ums.” By cutting these filler words out of your speech, you’ll appear much more professional in any setting.  

Own your mistakes – you’re only human: Our Toastmasters group is made up of everyday business professionals. Nobody is an award-winning public speaker or is there to criticize your every word. This made me realize that everybody makes mistakes, in Toastmasters and in life in general. Everybody stutters, pauses and says the wrong word on occasion, whether it’s you, your boss, a journalist or your client. So don’t get hung up on your mistakes, because your audience has most likely made them too. Just own them and move on.

All in all, I’m incredibly happy with my decision to join Toastmasters. Not only does it help you improve your skills and confidence in public speaking, but it also offers some great key takeaways that can be applied to any personal or professional situation—especially PR. Ready to take your public speaking to the next level? Use the “Find a Club” feature on the Toastmaster’s website to find a club near you.

Written by Celina Poonamallee, an Account Executive in San Francisco.

 

Beyond Email: 9 Tips for Pitching on Twitter, the Phone and at Events

These days, most pitching, the backbone of public relations, starts with an email. You spend hours fine-tuning a pitch with your team, before sending it off to a reporter with your fingers crossed. Often it’s a hit, but sometimes it falls flat.

No responses to your initial email doesn’t necessarily mean that you made a bad pitch or that your announcement isn’t newsworthy. Whether you get a response or not often depends on factors that are out of your hands: a crowded inbox, a misread subject line, poor timing, etc.

Clearly, you can’t solely rely on email, because it isn’t a perfect communication tool. You have to reach the reporters where they are (always keeping in mind that some reporters prefer email-only interaction).

Below, are some strategies from Highwire Walkers on how they like to get in front of reporters, and what to do when you get ahold of them:

Phone Pitching — Andrea Torres, SAE

Public relations and sales have one thing in common – phone calls. Just like salespeople, PR people need to be friendly and get to the point quickly to do our jobs well. When pitching reporters, keep the following in mind:

Do your research: Have you taken the time to dig into your contacts? Have you read or at least skimmed recent stories? If not, stop what you are doing – you are not ready to pick up the phone. Before dialing, spend the time to know whom you are calling and what they are writing about. This step will make sure you make a good first impression and that you are prepared should you have to think of news angles on the fly.

Have a plan: Researching your targets beforehand is one thing, but it won’t get you very far if you haven’t gotten your thoughts and key conversation points organized. This might mean creating an outline to guide you or writing out an entire script. The takeaway is here is to set yourself up for success so to that you can get your point across.

Get to the point: If you want to lock in that briefing, don’t waste a journalist’s time; make your point quickly and concisely. This step is easier if you’ve followed step 1 and 2.

Be Nice: PR is all about relationships, so be nice. When talking to journalists on the phone, ask about their day and smile. It might seem odd, but smiling helps you relax and sound more pleasant.

Twitter Pitching — Ben Noble, AE

Twitter is a high-risk/high-reward platform that can help quickly catch a journalist outside their busy inbox. Journalists who frequently use Twitter are likely to engage in conversation and/or acknowledge posts from their followers. I recommend grabbing the journalist’s attention online with an eye-catching message and then shifting the conversation to email.

Don’t jump headfirst into a pitch: Nobody wants unsolicited pitches clogging up their timeline. Instead, offer insight into an article or post presented on the journalist’s feed. Share your perspective, ask them for their thoughts and offer counterpoints to topics of discussion. Building Twitter relationships starts with a courting process. Once you have a proper cadence of back and forth, indicate that you may have someone who can further address the topic (your client) and offer to send an email.

Avoid pitching several reporters at once. Twitter is an open forum and your tweets are public. Spamming journalists will be noticed and frowned upon.

Follow up – but not the same way as you would through email. If a journalist doesn’t reply to your first attempt at conversation, don’t be dissuaded. Feel free to follow up by prompting another discussion. Don’t remind the journalist of your initial post. Instead, start a new conversation to show that you are legitimately interested in the journalist’s perspective. Again, Twitter relationships involve courting. Prove that you are a committed follower rather than a one-off attention seeker.

Pitching In-Person — Lauren Kido, SAE

For PR pros, seeing reporters in-person is like a celebrity sighting: you usually know so much about them, have the perfect conversation scripted out in your head and are a little hesitant to approach them at first. But, whether the sighting happens at a networking event, conference, tradeshow or at your local coffee shop, here are a few things to keep in mind when pitching reporters in-person:

Make it a conversation: Meeting in-person is an excellent way to build relationships for your client, but it shouldn’t all be business. Strike up a conversation about non-work related topics, and if you’re following a reporter on social media, now’s your chance to ask about the new puppy or how relaxing that beach vacation was (just be sure first to note that you saw their tweet).

Ask questions: You’ve emailed, called and tweeted and now you’re chatting face-to-face! Use this valuable time to get a better sense of what the reporter is working on by asking what they’re interested in covering, tired of hearing about and what thoughts they have on industry trends. It’s also helpful to understand how they might like to be pitched in the future so you can pass this information along to the rest of your team.

Have business cards handy: Business cards should always be kept on hand at any networking event. Make sure to write your client names and websites on your business cards so reporters can easily jog their memory when they are sorting through cards at the end of a long night.

Pitching on Twitter, in-person, on the phone — it can all be daunting. But, with some practice, you get the hang of it, and the coverage will start coming in.

Happy pitching!

 

Written by Ben Levine, an Account Associate in San Francisco, with help from Lauren Kido, Ben Noble and Andrea Torres