PR issues: Clients should be graded, too

Excellent Customer Service Evaluation Form

Successful public relations campaigns are a two-way street—for the public relations firm to deliver results, the client must invest adequate time and resources, provide information about their business activities, and make themselves available for content reviews or interviews.

And while clients are constantly—both consciously and unconsciously—grading their agency’s performance, shouldn’t the PR firm likewise gauge their performance as partners?

Let’s review how clients should behave to get A’s.

Client Management Team

Who owns the PR program? Are client-side senior executives involved, or has the relationship been delegated downstream to middle, or junior, management to supervise? Count the number of client executives involved in the PR process, note their rank and level of involvement…then grade.

Client Expectations

Does the client expect a ‘Hail Mary’ publicity touchdown in the first quarter of a campaign? Clients that expect PR firms to deliver day one do not understand that PR is a process that requires a partnership of equals and a solid understanding of the client’s business. Has the client bought into a realistic timetable for implementation? If so, grade up. If the client behaves as if they can outsource their PR without offering much input, grade down.

Defining the Agency’s Role

Is the client clear about the role the PR agency plays or do the goal posts unexpectedly shift and new demands arise mid-game? Without a clear mandate, get it signed off in writing, with appropriate performance milestones; any level of success can be belittled. Does everyone on the client team understand, and buy into, the PR program goals and process or is the agency seen as a hired gun assigned to handle specific project details? Good grades go to clients who champion the PR effort and communicate the process and goals internally.

Collaborative Partner

Too often, the client / agency relationship can become strained, or even adversarial, if the agency becomes starved for content ‘food.’ How well your client partners with your account team provides a convenient gauge of the prospects for success. Does the client maintain the meeting schedule, prepare the necessary background materials when expected, make company executives and specialists available to contribute, give your content the attention it requires, or is the PR firm sitting in the bleachers rather than the C-suite conference room?

The Patience Factor

Expecting instant gratification from your agency is a setup for failure. Even experienced agencies require some learning curve to properly understand your company, product advantages and industry. It is crucial that as the client you invest the time to help the agency understand your business, seasonality and timely issues. If it’s all hurry up and what have you done for me lately… it’s time to fire off a warning flare.

Be Realistic

Not every business announcement warrants headlines. How realistic is the client regarding the publicity potential of basic company news? So they understand the news cycle, scheduling timetables, role of exclusives, etc. Or does the client expect to win five industry awards and garner dozens of glowing reviews this year? Grade accordingly.

Management’s Expectations

Does the client responsible for managing the PR firm merchandise their successes to senior management? Embedding the strategy within the client company’s culture is a crucial intangible. Senior management wants three basic things from their PR agency: Insightful advice, great results and good value. But do they champion the program internally? Review the communications vehicles that promote your work to employees.


It’s easy to gauge how knowledgeable someone is by the questions, “Does the client team listen closely to what account people say?” or “They may not always agree but does the client think through your ideas or knee-jerk decision-making?” Gauge how long it takes to receive responses to your queries, comments and approvals on proposed actions, and reviews of requested materials. Time is money… assign a grade.

Timely Payments

Are agency invoices paid within the agreed-upon timetable or does the cycle keep expanding, requiring numerous follow-ups? How promptly you are paid is a good indication of whether the agency’s star is ascending or…?

A Thank You

And finally, agencies appreciate a “Thank you” for a job well done. The occasional client email to an agency principal letting them know that the team really delivered demonstrates an understanding of the often-nebulous world of public relations and the value PR can deliver. Count the emails and notes to assign a grade.

As the marketplace becomes ever more competitive, the PR agency / client relationship grows in importance as a way of differentiating and elevating one’s market position. Both sides earn the grades they deserve.

Len Stein is the founder of New York-based Visibility PR. This post originally appeared on Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog on March 19, 2015.

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Report: Local TV news dominates U.S. media landscape

It’s a good time to be a local TV producer or reporter, according to a recent report on the state of local news in various cities across the United States.

Interest in local-level and neighbourhood-level news trumped that of national and international fare in all three cities — Denver, CO; Macon, GA; and Sioux City, IA — surveyed by the Pew Research Center in early March.

“In all three cities, nearly nine-in-ten residents follow news about their local area very or somewhat closely, and roughly half follow it very closely,” reads the center’s Local News in the Digital Age report.

Around 27 per cent of Denver residents said they followed international news.

The report is based on findings from public opinion surveys administered in each city.

Interest in News High in All Three Cities

And while local news is the preferred cargo, the survey indicates the delivery method of choice is definitely local television: More than 50 per cent of residents in each city indicated it was their preferred source, reaching nearly 70 per cent in the smaller centres of Macon and Sioux City.

That’s compared to just 23 per cent of Denverites naming a daily newspaper as their preferred source of news (the smaller cities had higher daily newspaper penetration, at between 35 and 40 per cent).

Interestingly (and perhaps slightly concerningly), “other local residents” were a top three news source for respondents in all three cities — climbing to as high as 37 per cent in Macon.

The report also tracked the digital differences between all three cities, with nearly 50 per cent of Denver residents surveyed indicating the Internet is important as a local news source (which, to me, seemed a smallish number until you realize that only 33 per cent of Sioux City residents view the Internet as a good source of local news).

Importance of the Internet as a Source for Local News

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Twitter gives us its best March Madness bracket predictions

When the calendar turns to March, thoughts turn to spring (at least for those of us north of the Equator – I’m not sure what Australians think about), St. Paddy’s Day, and even chocolate eggs.

And for some of us, our thoughts also turn to college basketball.

Every year, the NCAA puts on its national college basketball tournament known as March Madness. And every year, people bet on it. A lot.

According to the American Gaming Association, this year’s tournament will see approximately $9 billion wagered and 70 million brackets filled out. That second number is especially staggering, as it’s higher than the total number of ballots cast for President Obama (66 million) in the 2012 election. (Incidentally, the President fills out his own bracket every year, in a tradition that has come to be known as Barack-etology.)

MediaMiser recently analyzed around 13,000 tweets referencing both “March Madness” and “bracket”, in an attempt to divine who you, the people, would like to see win it all.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of team mentions were for top-seeded Kentucky (the far-and-away favourite to win it all this year), with around 50 per cent of the share of voice. And of all the tweets for Kentucky, professional golfer Rickie Fowler’s (@RickieFowlerPGA) had the greatest reach at around 880,000:

Of the eight top-ranked teams mentioned in tweets, Duke came closest to Kentucky in terms of mentions with a 17-per-cent share of voice. It’s a strong show of support for the North Carolina school that won it all in 2010, as no other team received more than 100 mentions.

Wisconsin finished with a nine per cent share of voice, followed by Arizona and Villanova with seven and six per cent, respectively (see chart).


Interestingly, Facebook analyzed its own data and found similar trends: from February 15 to March 14, Kentucky and Duke came 1-2 in terms of number of posts and comments. But basketball isn’t the only thing getting its own brackets this month. On March 15, the NHL caused a bit of a stir by posting a bracket of its own:

It was retweeted around 800 times over our two days of monitoring, most notably by George Stroumboulopoulos, who sent it out to his 658,401 followers. That’s some fine marketing work from the National Hockey League.

Delicious food and craft beer also got in on the act:

Sports partisanship can be a nasty business, but no matter who you’re cheering for — or if you’re cheering at all — it’s certainly the case that March Madness gets people talking.

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Apple Watch or iWatch? How brand confusion can stick around

This afternoon, Apple will announce the final details for its first major new product category since the iPad.

Within the month the much-anticipated Apple Watch will hit stores and, depending on who you ask, it could either be Apple’s next big success — or biggest flop since the Newton.

In the run-up to the initial Apple Watch announcement in September, however, most of the tech press assumed the new device would follow Apple’s standard branding practice since Steve Jobs returned to the company. That is, everyone was already calling it the iWatch.

But then Apple announced the Apple Watch, throwing everyone for a loop. As shown below, almost no one guessed (or even mentioned) the “Apple Watch” name before the Sept. 9 event where it was unveiled.


Unfortunately for Apple, the old name stuck around for a while. “iWatch” saw a huge spike the week the announcement was made, but what’s maybe even more interesting is that the term stuck around.

It’s tougher to see on the chart above, but the below visual shows a bit better just how persistent “iWatch” has been: The term accounted for 14 per cent of mentions in December, nearly six months after the original announcement.

And it accounted for 21 per cent of all mentions during the entire time period (including almost all mentions from July and August).


With other Apple products such as Apple Pay seemingly taking on the new style of branding, it’ll be interesting to see how well Apple can transition from the “i” branding it’s done such a good job of pushing for so many years.

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Innovative PR: Vaughn may have Unfinished Business with iStock


Business fulfills each and every one of them

UPDATE: Unfinished Business is Vince Vaughn’s lowest grossing opening release at $4,800,000. It was shown in 2,777 theatres.

On March 2, media outlets across the net showcased satirical stock images featuring Vince Vaughn and the cast of his latest movie, Unfinished Business.

Aside from being absolutely hilarious, these images were particularly compelling because they were available to download for free through partnered website iStock, a division of Getty Images. So far, iStock has over 41,998 views and both iStock and Getty Images collectively have over 458 online news mentions.

With over 1,722 online news articles and counting currently circulating, it’s evident that Unfinished Business has amassed a plethora of earned media — every PR professional’s dream.

But Unfinished Business only has ~3,300 Twitter followers and ~13,100 Facebook likes after 4 days of positive campaign response and just one day before its theatrical release (March 6). So who has really benefited from this PR campaign — Unfinished Business or iStock?

A campaign is as successful as the amount of people it reaches. By now, it’s safe to say a large number of people in the business, public relations, advertising, marketing, communications, and design communities have heard of the film and have been trying to somehow incorporate the stock images into their editorial content.

This furthers the campaign’s earned media reach and staying power, keeping the film both relevant and exciting. The virality of the stock images will keep the film top-of-mind when consumers decide which movie to go see this weekend.

But there’s a catch.

Anyone wanting to use this stock imagery has to first download it from iStock. This is where iStock has the advantage over Unfinished Business: For every download, there must be an iStock account to download from. If someone doesn’t already have an account, they have to create one. Each new account is a lead for iStock , which could result in new business or a new contact for its marketing database.

These new leads can be nurtured to become powerful brand advocates for iStock, which will continue to benefit the stock photo company. This means that iStock can reach new audiences long after Unfinished Business has been released on DVD and iTunes.

But iStock is also an extremely valuable vessel for Unfinished Business’ messaging, considering the stock image company has a considerably higher social media following due to being a widely used, previously established product. This means that upon release, an established audience of more than 90,000 Twitter followers were exposed to Unfinished Business and its PR campaign.

This head start no doubt contributed to the campaign’s virality: The #UnfinishedBusiness hashtag has had over 4,500 twitter mentions.

There has been more talk about the stock images themselves than there has been about the movie: Unfinished Business stock image-related handles and hashtags have so far been mentioned more than the handles and hashtags about the movie itself, though this could change quickly following its release.

Most people will remember Vince Vaughn’s hilarious stock photos, but will they remember they were used to promote his movie? Will this stock photo frenzy convert to massive box office sales? We’ll see after this weekend!

Who will be the real PR winner of this campaign? Unfinished Business or iStock? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

(Data used for this article collected March 5, 2015)

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Top Twitter influencers of February’s Social Media Week: #SMW15

Representing Bangalore, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Jakarta, Lagos, Milan and New York, this year’s first Social Media Week took Twitter by storm from February 23 to 28, 2015. Social Media Week is a news platform and worldwide conference that discusses—and shares insights on—how social media and technology affect global business, society and culture.

Using MediaMiser’s analytics SaaS, we monitored #SMW15 throughout the conference to determine who, and what, had the most Twitter influence during the week-long event.

After analyzing over 28,000 tweets, we’ve sorted our findings into the following categories: Influence by number of tweets, influence by retweet ratio, and the top mentioned hashtags of the conference.

Top influencers by number of tweets:Top Users by Postings

Top influencers by retweet ratio (original tweets to retweets):

Most mentioned hashtags:Most Mentioned Hashtags

    • #SMWBangalore (15295)
    • #smwnyc (3023)
    • #DellAtSMWBangalore (2516)
    • #TrueWanderer (2089)
    • #rideready (2081)
    • #socialmedia (2013)
    • #SMWmilan (1787)
    • #SMWJakarta (1473)
    • #SMWLagos (842)
    • #IntelAtSMWBangalore (692)

    We’d like to hear about some of your favourite moments of February’s Social Media Week. Let us know in the comments below.

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Why governing bodies should use media monitoring and analysis

There has been some debate and backlash surrounding the use of media monitoring and analysis by government agencies. But why do government departments and agencies really use services like this?

Traditionally, the purpose of governmental media monitoring and analysis is to analyze who is saying what, where, and which key messages have the most influence on public opinion. This data alone can be an integral part of any government communications plan, but there are other ways these departments can leverage media monitoring services and the data that’s generated.

Issues management

Issues-based monitoring and analysis can help government bodies pinpoint which specific issues should be prioritized according to public opinion. Who is saying what? Where? What key message or issue is repeatedly covered in media or by social media users?

Global Finacial Business Meeting and PlanningThis type of monitoring and analysis can help strategize future communications regarding the issue by identifying who is talking about it and what they’re saying. This allows communication departments to tailor messaging that’s both compelling and informative to the public. Using archived media data, government bodies can also study similar issues in the past and draw insights for future communications plans.

Using media monitoring and analysis, government bodies can analyze how different regions perceive and discuss various topics which can, in turn, help uncover issues that may have not been previously known to the department.

Reputation management

Government bodies can implement a media monitoring and analysis strategy to manage their reputation and how they’re perceived. Media monitoring and analysis can help identify which key influencers are talking about the department, what they’re saying, and the general reception of their message.

This information can identify which journalists and bloggers are positively aligned with government values and messaging, and who is most likely to advocate for them. Government bodies can also identify their largest critics, and allow them to address key points and opinions.

Using media monitoring for reputation management can also ensure that the media is maintaining the integrity of a message. Is the intended message getting through to the public? or is it being misinterpreted? Media monitoring allows communications plans to be altered during a campaign to ensure the messaging is as clear and concise as possible.

Lastly, media monitoring and analysis can be used to measure the impact and perception of a message and evaluate the effectiveness of communications plans and campaigns. Government bodies can use the collected information to improve publicly funded programs by analyzing both positive and negative reception to government messaging. This crucial feedback can provide the basis for important infrastructure and policy changes, such as building a new community centre, or making sure that existing public buildings are universally accessible.

Risk management

Using media monitoring and analysis for risk management also allows government departments to create strategies surrounding potential risks.

Uniquely, media monitoring and analysis can also help manage the risk associated with using specific vendors. By gathering and analyzing content and coverage surrounding suppliers, it’s possible to establish if the vendor is someone worth working with, or if their reputation could be a potential risk.

A media analyst can compile all of the data about a specific vendor and provide a snapshot of its history, important coverage, and whether or not they are seen favourably based on media data. This information is incredibly important to government bodies as it allows them to minimize the risk associated with finding and employing new contractors and vendors.

Analysis of media coverage can also help identify new and potentially devastating risks in combination with analysis of other data points. This information allows government bodies to scale potential risks based on how likely they are to become a problem: Is it an immediate threat? Could it be a threat in the near future?

Future planning

Lastly, government bodies can take all of the acquired information and aggregated data from implementing media monitoring and analysis and use it to create informed strategies and budgets for the next fiscal year.

The data provided by media monitoring can stand as a rationale for government decisions moving forward, and any new data can be used to implement more informed communications strategies. Both government agencies and citizens alike can benefit from the insights media monitoring and analysis provides.

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Why science coverage gets on some scientists’ nerves

Science!Attention science journalists and editors: You’re being called out by your sources.

Nearly 80 per cent of American scientists say the superficial nature of media coverage on scientific studies is a major problem for the scientific community’s communications efforts, according to the Pew Research Center’s latest study.

The scientific community’s biggest beef with media coverage is that “news reports don’t distinguish between well-founded and not well-founded scientific findings.”

Kind of makes you wonder about a study released today on the Black Death, which suggests that the devastating plague that first appeared in Europe in the 14th century was caused by gerbils instead of rats.

Although this study’s conclusion is still very much in doubt, you would never know that from the news headlines of the day:

You dirty rat! Turns out gerbils were responsible for the Black Death (The Guardian)

After 8 centuries, rats exonerated in spread of Black Death (Washington Post)

‘Gerbils replace rats’ as main cause of Black Death (BBC)

The BBC article goes on to say that “If the genetic material shows a large amount of variation, it would suggest the team’s theory is correct.” Which is certainly not what the headline infers (of course, it’s not just about science journalists — editors and headline writers all have a part to play here, as well).

Indeed, it’s these kind of simplifications of complex studies requiring further testing that seems to really irk scientists dealing with the media: A further 52 per cent of the community said that the “simplification” of scientific findings is another major problem in terms of communicating those findings to the public.

The Pew report went on to say that while scientists do get annoyed with sometimes superficial coverage, they still value the media tremendously: 43 per cent said it’s important for scientists to get coverage in the news media.

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#cdnpoli: Eve Adams, John Baird dominate in the new year


Big moves have made John Baird and Eve Adams the talk of #cdnlpoli so far during 2015

2015 was already earmarked to be a big one for Canadian politics. But I don’t think anyone expected so much to happen so early in the year, let alone in the first week and a half of February.

Between Eve Adams defecting from the Conservatives to the Liberals, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird resigning and the Supreme Courts’ assisted suicide ruling, the hashtag #cdnpoli has gotten plenty of traction so far this year.

The biggest day of news came on February 9, which you can see on the chart below.

That morning, Eve Adams dropped the bombshell that she was crossing the floor to the Liberals. Later the same day Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled his cabinet, moving former Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to Defence and former Defence Minister Rob Nicholson into the recently vacated Foreign Affairs spot.


Since the announcement came late in the evening on February 2, you can see most of the related spike came the next day.

The news that Baird would step down was also the source of the most retweeted tweet for the period, from CBC Politics, which is below.

The next most retweeted tweet related to the Supreme Court partially striking down the assisted suicide law, also from CBC (below). The announcement came on February 6, which was also the day with the third highest tweet volume.

The next highest day was January 28, driven by Bell Let’s Talk Day and the hashtag #bellletstalk.

There was also plenty of chatter about Keystone XL, especially from Greenpeace’s Mike Hudema, who was again the top influencer by total retweets for #cdnpoli.


In fact, the top influencers for the period looks very similar to our previous lists, including users Bergg99 and Stephen Lautens.

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Twitter Reacts to the Demise of Sun News Network

Two months shy of its fourth birthday, the Sun News Network went dark on Friday the 13th of February.

Regardless of whether you saw the network as right-wing vitriol or clear-sighted truth — or if you saw it perhaps as most of us did, which was very rarely or not at all ━ its closure inspired the multitudes to take to Twitter and spout some truth of their own.

First there was the expected gloating (and “gloating” is the perfect word) from what can only be assumed to be the Left:

And, of course, the equally expected retort from the other side:

But beyond the jabs and counters which so often characterize issues on Twitter, there were a variety of explanations of why the network failed in tweeted links to long-form pieces from outlets such as Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, The Walrus, and iPolitics, among several others.

These pieces likewise weren’t immune to gloating, especially The Tyee, which said Sun News “proved Canadians to be much smarter than it predicted”. John Doyle’s contribution in The Globe called Sun News “cheap, cheesy, terrible television.”

And like the trench battles between would-be pundits, the big names also came out on Twitter to respond to articles like the above.

Four days after the closure, Sun News personalities Ezra Levant and David Akin had their counter-points promoted on Twitter either by themselves or others:

But while both sides were busy duking it out with each other over the merits — or lack thereof — of Sun News, by far the greatest driver of the conversation was the loss of media jobs.

People of all stripes took to Twitter to lament the fact that, regardless of one’s politics, the failure of Sun News Network meant that 200 people would soon be unemployed.

Two takeaways from this: 1) Sun News Network is definitely dead, and; 2) Whatever your take, you can always be sure that Twitter users will have a decidedly strong opinion.

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