online-consultation-5-main-news-of-the-monthFake news is here to stay.

But that should not be a surprise. Fake news is not new. It has been around since the founding of our country. The likes of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin all indulged in cooking up apocryphal content to advance the cause of the Revolution and even their respective political interests after our country’s founding.

What IS new is how fake news is now being used as a club to bludgeon brands for political positions they may or may not have actually endorsed. I say may or may not have because even if an executive at a major brand did support an idea popularized by a politician the actual facts could become so skewed by the ‘fake news engine’ that it no longer matters what the actual facts were.

In today’s wired world, a reputation that takes years and decades to build can be significantly tarnished or permanently damaged in mere hours and days.

Public relations to the rescue

Public relations professionals who are savvy in the ways of digital media and marketing have become the emergency responders for a brand’s reputation. A brand that hesitates in its response to fake news does so at its own peril. Responses have to be swift, measured and proportionate to the degree of threat involved.

PR professionals are experienced communicators who run toward the crisis. They are experienced at assessing the level of public and media awareness, setting up teams to address brand messaging and strategically sharing timely news with media outlets to curb the damaging effects of a crisis.

As we explained in an earlier post about the crises faced by Samsung and Wells Fargo last year, brands must face their crisis head on by giving PR professionals a lead role in setting up the team that responds to reputational firestorm. Indeed, fighting a brand crisis is a lot like fighting a forest fire where many conditions beyond the control of the brand can shape the crisis and leave a lasting impact that could cost executive jobs, stock valuations and future growth potential.

More fake news crises coming soon?

Brands should already be adding fake news to their crisis plans. Unlike a fire at a company facility or a case of fraud, fake news is by its nature ephemeral. It doesn’t exist in the real world where individuals can be taken into account and a clean reckoning can be made to the public. It exists in a digital world that is impossible to corral and is fed by the very engine that makes the Internet profitable: click through advertising.

That’s right! Many fake news sites are pedalling falsehoods simply to sell ads and make money. But is that really any different that the scourge of “Yellow Journalism” that cheapened the U.S. media landscape at the turn of the 20th century? Yes, if only because fake news sites are so easy to start, run and spread to poison the minds of readers against a brand. At least with Yellow Journalism the U.S. media eventually reacted to scurrilous journalism by instituting a professional code of ethics and cleaning up the profession by raising the educational requirements of future journalists at colleges and universities.

Brands must brace themselves for more cases of fake news. By building a crisis plan to combat fake news, you ensure that proper controls are in place to limit financial damage and long-lasting impact to brand reputation. Fake news, after all, doesn’t have to be based on reality or a real-world event. It can be started by a fringe political group that perceives your brand as too liberal, conservative or even non-committal. It can be started by an ethically-challenged competitor intent on stealing market share from you.

Not sure how to proceed in the face of such an unpredictable and immeasurable threat? You can always start by downloading our white paper on how to build a crisis plan for your brand. It includes practical tips on how to build out the crisis team, write the plan and run practice crisis scenarios.

Want a little coaching? Give us a shout! We have offices in Austin, Denver and Houston but our reach is global.

Until then, please keep a weather eye on the fake news horizon to keep your brand out of harm’s way!

 

Through our global communications network, we’ve been able to grasp a better understanding of media and communications in an international market. In an effort to share a bit of that insight, we’ve asked our Associate Agencies to share some common media relations practices in their respective countries.

Next up in our series, we talked to Northern Link PR, a PR agency for Nordic companies, based in Stockholm, Sweden.

 

Q. How many media markets do you cover in your country?

A. Four markets with one agency on each market: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland

 

Q. How do journalists prefer to be pitched?

A. When it comes to pitching, key success factors are: locally relevant news (this means Norwegian news for Norway, Swedish news for Sweden and so on), phone pitching, and exclusive interview offerings. Focus on bringing value to the journalist by knowing the target audience of each media and area of interest of each journalist.

 

Q. What is the most important business media outlet in your market(s)?

A. Sweden – Dagens Industri

      Finland – Kauppalehti

      Norway – Dagens Näringsliv

      Denmark – Boersen

 

Q. What is the most important consumer media outlet in your market(s)?

 A. Sweden – Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet

       Finland – Iltalethi

       Norway – Aftenposten

       Denmark – Berlingske Tidene and Jyllandsposten

 

Q. What is the most important trend in your local media landscape today?

A. Internet and mobile penetration are among the strongest in the world. The blogosphere is very strong for B2C PR. Also of course, social media is very important and keeps growing.

 

Q. What is the biggest mistake you can make with journalists in your local market(s)?

A. To not understand what brings value to the journalist and his or her audience. Jargon and superlatives without facts do not go down well.

 

Q. What is the reputation of PR practitioners with journalists?

A. It is an ok relationship that is kept on a professional level. Becoming friends with journalists is ok, of course, but that will not make them more likely to write. Bringing them value is the key. 

 

Q. What is the knowledge of English with journalists?

A. Very good for a non-English native region. However, written material is expected to be delivered in the local language.

 

Q. What are legal or professional code restrictions to media relations practices? For example, in Germany there are many restrictions on giving gifts to journalists.

A. Professional PR consultants know that bringing value to the journalist is key.

 

Do you have any questions about developing an international communications presence in the Nordic region for your business? If so, get in touch with us here.

Thank you to our associate agency Northern Link PR for giving us a brief insight into the media relations world in Nordic countries. Founded in 2011 for companies with Nordic ambitions, Northern Link PR is a Swedish PR agency that consists of a team of consultants that will help you with any communications need. This includes managing media relations, establishing and managing your digital channels, planning and executing events, managing your Nordic or Swedish company or product launch, or preparing and acting upon your crisis communications plan. Northern Link PR is capable of serving the Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish markets.

With the holidays, awkward family moments and turkey and stuffing nearly behind us (or in us), we head into 2016 with hope and a new set of challenges and goals, some of which may apply to your PR Strategy.

If this is an area where you don’t have much experience, creating and executing an effective PR strategy can be daunting. Here are few tips to help you stick to a News Year’s Resolution for your company’s PR efforts in 2016.

Make it something you can measure. It’s a lot easier to say that you’re going to ‘lose weight’ in 2016 than to say you’re going to lose 10 pounds and two inches in January. As for making your PR goals more measurable, consider these factors:

  • Coverage Quantity: Coverage can range from being mentioned in a newspaper story to receiving a full article on an industry blog. If you want to become a top brand in your community or industry by getting mentions on a monthly basis, then set the goal and be sure to allocate the resources needed to accomplish it.
  • Coverage Quality: Another thing to consider is setting a goal for a) publications/media in which you’d like to receive coverage and b) what should be included in a story that mentions your company. In other words, it helps to go after the publications, TV news shows or blogs that your customers pay attention to.
  • Time: It’s important to include a timeframe because it allows you to highlight PR successes alongside other key company reports. Tracking media mentions over time helps you identify seasonal spikes to optimize and dead-times you can figure a better solution for in hopes of getting year-round publicity.

Example 1. A local bakery’s measureable goal could be: January 1 to March 31, XYZ Bakery hopes to obtain two pieces of coverage in local media that highlight its menu variety and ability to accommodate people with severe food allergies.

Example 2. A software startup measurable goal could be: January 1 to June 30, ABC Software hopes to get into the local business journal and TechCrunch for a seed funding event it plans to close in March; it then plans to follow that with mentions in at least three trades that cover the industry the startup serves.

Reality check. While your dream may be to wake up and look like Channing Tatum or to do a guest appearance on the Today Show, you have to be realistic. It takes time and hard work to reach your goals, and there are usually external factors or obstacles that you can’t control.

In the case of our bakery example above, the PR goal is both measureable and realistic. It would be unrealistic, however, to assume a small bakery could receive two pieces of business press coverage in national outlets like the Wall Street Journal and CNN in the next three months.

Hold yourself (or your PR firm) accountable. For today, that might just mean writing down your goals and posting it where you can see it. When you’re ready, share your PR strategy with other stakeholders in your company.

To reach your PR goals, you will need information and support from others. So, ask for help regularly and share your successes. When you involve others in your plans, you’re much more likely to hold yourself accountable.

If, however, you are too busy to pursue a PR strategy by yourself (and there is enough room in the 2016 marketing budget), then be sure to share your goals with the PR firm you retain and hold the firm accountable the same way you would hold yourself accountable.

Don’t be afraid make changes. As you begin reaching out to media, you may realize that certain tactics aren’t working or that your goal isn’t as a realistic as you thought. That’s OK. Your PR strategy is not set in stone rather it should evolve as you test your story ideas with the media and intended audiences.

Understand that not meeting a goal doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. The fact is there is only so much room for media outlets to talk about businesses like yours, making the competition for the limited space especially intense. The key is to keep at it and build relationships with the reporters and bloggers who cover your community or industry. To mitigate the “failures” it also makes sense to blend your in-house content published on your blog or through platforms like Medium or LinkedIn in order to fill in the gaps when you don’t expect any traditional media hits. Your work will pay huge dividends to your PR strategy over time.

We hope that these tips inspire you to commit to a New Year’s Resolution for your company’s 2016 PR strategy.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

For many tech startups in Silicon Valley, and other tech hotspots like Austin, Boston and Seattle, the allure of getting into a popular tech media outlet like TechCrunch is too strong to pass up. In fact, when startup founders think about getting into the ‘news,’ it is often the implied target. And for good reason. With over 12 million unique visitors, TechCrunch is the undisputed Everest of tech media.

For those not already familiar with its history, J. Michael Arrington and Keith Teare co-founded TechCrunch in 2005 as an early player in a new crop of online publications totally dedicated to covering tech startups and their founders. What set TechCrunch apart from the other tech-focused media was its record of reporting breaking news before others could – especially high-profile funding announcements. Courtesy of a stable of prolific (sometimes irreverent) tech writers, TechCrunch eventually cemented its status as ‘king-maker’ in the eyes of the tech world.

The benefits of getting into TechCrunch may be universally known in the tech community but nevertheless here is a quick overview:

  • Startup buzz
  • First-mover advantage
  • Website traffic
  • Downloads
  • Investor awareness
  • Social sharing

With benefits like these it should not come as a surprise that getting into TechCrunch is a daunting task for a vast majority of startups. It used to be that if you raised a million dollar seed round you stood a good chance of getting a write-up. Nowadays, in the era of massive seed rounds, celebrity founders and unicorn valuations, the bar has risen higher than ever before.

But don’t despair. I have written a white paper that gives you the whole truth and nothing but the truth on how startups can leverage trends, titles and technology to improve their shot at getting to the top of the Mt. Everest of tech media. To download the white paper, please request one here now.