The Obvious Thing to Do in Austin While You’re at SXSW

fbcb1b3aAlthough I am a local, I did not want to write a “Things To Do in Austin While You’re at SXSW” blog post. But I did want to offer valuable insight to the 27,000 people headed this way for the event before it kicks off next week. Here it is: The thing to do in Austin while you’re at SXSW is, in fact, SXSW.

Duh, right?

The reason this hardly-an-epiphany merits a blog post is that the unique nature of SXSW — the fact that it’s expansive in every possible way including geographically, topically, demographically and programmatically — makes it almost impossible to avoid the pitfall of getting distracted, as well as spreading oneself out too thin.

Below is some advice from yours truly and excerpts for the best SXSW Survival Guide I have seen in EVER, mostly because it’s so very short and not really that sweet. Courtesy of TechCrunch.

From Me

  • Attend Sessions.  Do take the time to figure out your schedule and come eager to learn from speakers and share thoughts with peers. Because isn’t that first and foremost the whole point? Don’t kill yourself waiting in line to go to a party or feast at Franklin’s BBQ. You can always come back to Austin another time. Related: TechCrunch’s FOMO tip below.
  • Keep It Real. SXSW is the perfect example of Austin’s wonderful ability to twist and transform into any shape imaginable. Last year, Nokia built a three-domed structure that occupied over 4,000 square feet of floor space and featured “immersive” projections and interactive visualizations. My point? Some brands are going to go over-the-top in a misguided attempt to “keep it weird,” but you’ll be better off sticking with those that keep it real.
  • Put Your Feet Up. The SXSW Interactive Lounges will be great for that because they are strategically dispersed and they are designed to protect you from all the madness without you having to completely remove yourself. You may not get the chance to put your feet up on a chair… but sitting on the floor, with your back against the wall, sharing a charger with a fellow SXSWgoer is what it’s all about.

From TechCrunch

  • Pack for the worst and hope for the best. We’re expecting rain over the weekend. This excerpt updated with latest weather forecast (see below).
  • Take a night off. Pick your night, turn off your phone, and SLEEP.
  • Pace yourself. The thing about Austin is that it’s cheap. Beer? $2.50. Wine isn’t too much more (…) But nights are long and we’re not as young as we once were. (DAMN IT.) Take your time, drink water between your (free) drinks and you’ll thank me later.
  • F*ck FOMO. The only thing you’ll be missing out on by skipping that “hot” party with the gigantic line is serendipity.
  • Grab a friend and go off-grid. Duck out and go hang out somewhere less crowded. This may result in an afternoon full of unexpected, pleasant conversations.
  • Don’t wear your company’s brand on your shirt every day. Makes you look ridiculous.
  • Exercise. Do it. There’s a running trail around Lady Bird Lake and likely an (empty) gym at your hotel. Even if you’re exhausted, a 30-minute workout will rejuvenate you.
  • Say hello to a stranger on the street. Find out their story. Share yours. That’s what SXSW is all about. And I promise you, it’s not that hard.
  • Advil. THE BIG BOTTLE.

If you’re not making it down to Austin for SXSW this year, you have none of this to worry about!

Tips and a Word of Caution on Creating or Editing Your Company’s Wikipedia Article

wikipediaGiven that Wikipedia is the first place many of us go to learn quick facts about companies, celebrities or obscure engineering terminology, it makes sense that many of our clients want to know how they can ensure that information about them is updated, complete and accurate.

But not everyone has good intentions.

Companies or agencies acting on their behalf are discouraged from creating or editing articles about themselves or clients. This constitutes a conflict of interest. In the experience of Wikpedia editors, if the page is about your company, you will try to manipulate facts, embellish or spin them.

So what is one to do?

Here are some tips and a very strong word of caution:

To create/edit an article on Wikipedia, you must create a username/account on the site; however, the challenge is that Wikipedia has a very strict username policy. Usernames that are doubtful, offensive, any that imply that more than one person is using that account, or that are promotional (associated with a company email address) are watched closely by the site editors. If you try to make edits to the company page using what would be deemed a “suspicious” username, those edits will be flagged by a Wikipedia editor and reported as inappropriate. More on Wikipedia’s username policies can be found here.

Another challenge is that in order for Wikipedia to be more likely to approve your edits, your username must be active for at least four days and you must have at least 10 approved edits in your Wikipedia account history.

Strictly technically speaking, you could create a Wikipedia account with a username associated with a personal email address and become a contributor by creating and editing articles around the encyclopedia.

THE WORD OF CAUTION: Should you choose to create or edit an article associated with your agency or client, and your entries are not 100 percent factual or objective, you run the risk of the edits becoming the story and getting caught up in Wikipedia drama. 

My advice?

It’s OK not to control every outpost and even every part of the message. Try not to focus on Wikipedia entries. Focus on issuing informative press releases, blog posts and on updating your online newsroom on a regular basis. Focus on maintaining a solid influencer relations program so that reporters, bloggers and analysts may become your partners in keeping key audiences informed about the latest and greatest from your company. Focus on sharing news and other updates with your employees and  empower them to become evangelizers and extend the reach of your message. Share relevant content and engage social media audiences to inspire them to become storytellers as well.

Do all of these things and the Wikipedia articles will edit themselves.

How Google’s Updated Link Schemes Impact Press Releases and Blog Posts

Last week, Google surrepticiously updated its Link Schemes document, which dictates SEO best practices. The following now constitute “unnatural links” as initially reported by Search Engine Land:

  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

This means that content such as press releases and blog posts may actually decline in PageRank and search results if they contain forced optimized anchor text. What is anchor text? The illustration below courtesy of Moz explains it best:

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What practices should you stay away from? Google provided an example of content that contains unnatural links in an attempt to optimize anchor text and manipulate PageRank results:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.”

You may still write press releases that include links back to a page on the company’s site where readers can find more information about a new product — this includes product pages, landing pages, blog posts, etc. However, in a Google+ Hangout (see below), Google’s John Mueller recommended nofollowing ALL links within press releases in order to eliminate any possiblities of Google mistaking your press release for link abusive content.

On blog posts, you should avoid optimized anchor text by hyperlinking directive text or calls to action rather than keywords. For example, in the phrase:

Click here to see how we develop public relations programs for technology, healthcare and clean tech clients

LPP would include a link to http://loispaul.com under the call to action rather than the term “public relations.” Although this may appear to contradict keyword-based SEO practices, it is the recommended way to build PageRank and improve SEO under Google’s new guidelines.

The Big Takeaway?

Avoid hyperlinking keywords just to boost your SEO for SEO’s sake. Stop creating content for engines and machines. Start creating content that delivers experiences for readers and compells them to click through and engage.

SEO = Search Experience Optimization

Count It. Twitter Makes Analytics Available to a Select Few, Hopefully All.

I am like many others who didn’t realize “tweet” wasn’t already an official word up until yesterday when the good people atThe Oxford English Dictionary quietly announced that it had added it as both a noun and a verb – along with other new words such as “big data” and “crowdsourcing.”

What I have known for a long time is that Twitter has never made performance analytics available to users. Those of us who manage personal and corporate accounts on behalf of employers and clients have been forced to cobble together data collected manually using the few things Twitter makes available, data from third-party services like TweetStats, click-thru data from Bit.ly, and data from paid services like SimplyMeasured and Hootsuite PRO.

Finally, the era of frustrating Twitter analytics may soon be over. Twitter hasannounced analytics for a select few. The analytics dashboard is a simplified version of what is offered to advertisers, but it is certainly a step in a better direction.

For a while I worried that Twitter was holding off until the company could figure out how to charge for the use of its analytics dashboard. Fortunately, this service will be free for all users as they have realized that only by knowing how Twitter content is performing, will brands invest money on the platform.

Below are highlights, including tips for social media managers:

  • Provides snapshot of activity, including mentions, follows and unfollows over a month’s time.
  • Users can see how many faves, retweets, replies and click-thrus each of their tweets receives.
  • Users can sort by “Best, Good, All” for at-a-glance ranking of tweet performance. “Best” being the top 15% tweets that received engagement in the last month, “Good” being the top 66% of tweets that received engagement in the last month, and “All” being all tweets.
  • Users can learn more about their new followers, including unique interests, demographic information (location and gender), and the top users also followed by your followers.
  • Users can export analytics as a CSV for later use and reference. This makes it easier for social media managers using templates for social channel metrics to accelerate reporting and even reallocate time spent counting tweets, retweets and mentions, to actually digging in deeper into insights.

twitter 2 twitter

What’s missing

  • Hashtag information, including click-thrus
  • Deeper “influencer” insights.
  • The whole thing still has some kinks to work out, but it is very promising indeed.

My agency works with several clients who are key players in big data and data-driven innovation. I would be remiss if I did not mention the importance of leveraging performance metrics to guide content strategy. As such, it would not be a bad idea to set up some A/B tests for content. If you have a launch coming up, try drafting tweets that include calls to action, link to multimedia, true/false questions, data points, etc. and determine which type of content your audience responds to.

To see if you have access, visit https://analytics.twitter.com and sign in with your Twitter user name and password. If you are one of the lucky few you will see an “Analytics” tab at the top. You should be able to toggle between “Timeline Activity” and “Followers.”

Do you currently measure Twitter performance? Why? Why not?

How do you use analytics to inform your content strategy?

What specific metrics would you like Twitter to add to its performance analytics dashboard before it becomes widely available to the public?

PR Implications of Publications Embracing All-Digital Futures

6a00d83452b15969e20191040c070a970cFollowing an announcement byNetwork World a couple of weeks ago that they would be killing their print publication, Information Weekannounced last week that they too are leaving print for an all-digital future.

We already know that newsrooms are short on staff, with individual reporters covering several beats. Staff cuts and tight budgets have also led to decreased media attendance at industry and vendor events. And as more publications move to an all-digital format, fewer reporters are now responsible for publishing more stories on an even more regular basis.

And, as publications compete for money from advertisers and sponsors, many reporters are now tasked to help increase readership.

What impact does this have on PR programs and on how we can best continue to cultivate relationships with reporters and publications undergoing significant changes in format and business models?

  • Expect more dynamic annual editorial calendars. Some publications have already abandoned their annual editorial calendar and have announced other coverage opportunities throughout the year, as well as requests for more dynamic content such as slideshows, etc. This means PR pros have to keep in better touch with reporters year-round and be more proactive in our approach to identify media opportunities.  The next best opportunity may be a brand new one just announced.
  • On a related note, there are increasing numbers of more nontraditional opportunities for coverage in these digital publications, including slideshows, video, audio podcasts, Q&As, etc. PR pros need to develop materials such as bylines, product images, videos, blog posts and other digital-friendly content that we can share with media on behalf of our clients. One of our contacts said they appreciate receiving “interesting factoids” about the industry or uses of technology.  This content also can be leveraged via social media channels, which is a great way to close the coverage loop and maximize reach.
  • As noted above, the pressure for smaller editorial staffs to publish more stories in an all-digital format creates more opportunities for bylines and contributed content. This is a great way for PR pros to extend their clients’ messages and storytelling.  But just because the content is contributed, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to meet editorial standards of relevance and objectivity.  The PR teams who produce on-target materials for key outlets will open doors for their clients and build strong relationships with the editors and reporters.
  • Finally, as more reporters are being judged on the amount of traffic they are driving to the publication’s website, we will see more of them leveraging social media as a way to promote their work and build closer relationships with their audiences. PR pros should continue to share coverage via our social media channels and mention reporters to help increase their reach. We should also look at opportunities to create content with reporters and influencers.  Invite them to host Twitter chats or to serve as panelists in online discussions.  Maybe even switch things up a bit and interview them for a video or blog post focused on industry trends, etc. They are industry experts after all.

How are you approaching PR given the ongoing changes in media and journalism? What other implications should PR pros be aware of?