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Category Archives: Blogging


Kyle Alspach, BostInno Tech Editor, on BostInno’s Expansion Plans and the Future of Journalism

Kyle Alspach, BostInno’s new national technology editor.

Longtime Boston technology writer Kyle Alspach recently moved from BetaBoston to BostInno – where he’s the online tech publication’s first national technology editor. During a recent conversation with InkHouse, Alspach, who was the technology editor at the Boston Business Journal prior to joining BetaBoston, discussed why he made the jump to BostInno, how he shapes national tech coverage and how much he and his team think about clicks and SEO when they’re developing stories. When he’s not getting the scoop on the newest startups in Boston, Alspach can be found raising hot peppers in his garden, playing drums in his band or relaxing with his cats.

Q. Why did you move from BetaBoston to BostInno?

A. The main thing for me was getting the opportunity to have more of an editor role, and to work at a place where I’d be overseeing overall coverage and working with other writers. I really benefited – when I was at the Boston Business Journal and Mass High Tech – by working with editors.  I came in [to those publications] and didn’t know anything about how to cover tech companies and there were a lot of people who knew a lot about it. That was such a huge help. Now that I’ve been doing it for a few years, it will be a cool experience to work with people who are interested in learning how to cover tech news. I was also interested in BostInno just because of the fact that there’s certainly the sense out there that the web is where journalism is going to be in the future – there’s no debating that now. So I was attracted to work at a place where that’s all they do – covering news for the web. Other places I’ve worked, it was a big deal, but it wasn’t the priority. That changes your mentality. If you don’t know how to write news for the web, you stop existing. I wanted to see what that was like.

Q. How do you approach technology coverage at BostInno?

A. The idea is to obviously do the most compelling tech company coverage in all of our markets [BostInno parent company Streetwise Media also has publications in Chicago and Washington D.C.]. It’s interesting to see that not just in California, but pretty much every large metro area with colleges and young people, you see these startup meccas pop up.  Overall, our approach is just ‘how can we be the go-to source for covering that phenomenon.’ In Boston it’s not especially new, but there are some new things about our market – for instance there are a lot of consumer tech startups in Boston now.  In Chicago it’s very new and in D.C. it’s the same thing. There’s a huge opportunity to tell people about not just that there’s this new app … but that there are these people making these apps and they’re potentially going to be changing things about your city.

Q. How much are you think about clicks and SEO when you’re writing a story?

A. Once we decide something is an important story, we think a lot about it.  It’s a big opportunity especially for things that are breaking or events. You know Apple is going to have this announcement … and you know there’s an opportunity to get traffic from that – things like that. It’s kind of a different mindset.  I covered Google announcing its new Nexus phone and we thought, people are going to want some digestible information about this and I don’t want to just be another person writing it – but I do want to be useful. So we created a post about the exact differences between the new Nexus phone and the iPhone Six Plus. It worked out well and a lot of people were interested.  SEO is especially crucial when the entire world of tech journalism is covering something. We try to not do stuff for the sake of doing it. We try to be really fast and have it there immediately and differentiate ourselves.

Q. What is BostInno’s expansion strategy? Are you trying to be a Boston-based TechCrunch?

A. I think it’s somewhat of a unique model. I don’t think anybody else in tech news has put up a map like we have, that shows all of the cities where we’re planning to expand into next.  The goal is just to be the go-to startup news site in as many cities that there’s a need for one. I haven’t heard a lot of talk of expanding into Silicon Valley, but I know we do want to expand into L.A., Seattle and Austin, Texas.

Q. What are some tech trends you’re watching now?

A. One is the great debate about what is Boston’s identity. I did something on my first day on BostInno about it, about how losing Facebook isn’t that relevant to the conversation anymore. I think there’s a lot of proof that a tech startup can become a big tech company in Boston – it’s not a given that they’re going to leave and not be able to become large here. The big counter example is Wayfair …. It’s nowhere near Facebook’s size, but if Boston didn’t have the ingredients to build a large tech co. then Wayfair wouldn’t be here.  There still are so many challenges – one is that we didn’t do anything about non-compete agreements. I don’t think anybody in the early stage thinks that this is helping us.

Q. Biggest PR pet peeve?

A. The biggest pet peeve is to have there be significant news, a big funding or an acquisition of a company that I’ve been following for a while and then to have no heads-up or even – at least send me an email about it. If the company I’ve been writing about for three years gets a big VC round … and I see it in TechCrunch … it just makes me look like I’m not doing my job. What is the point of me dealing with a person at a PR firm at all if they‘re not going to keep me in the loop? I definitely want to get the exclusive, but I don’t’ ask for them on fundings.  I want it to be on something where clearly I need to differentiate my coverage. If there’s a new startup in town I want to be the first person doing the story.

Read more from Lisa van der Pool

The PR Guide to Instagram

InkHouse’s Instagram: Where we post our jealousy-inducing snack-shots.

200 Million. That’s roughly the population of Brazil. That’s also the number of Instagram users in the world, who’ve posted more than 20 billion photos on the mobile platform.

Despite Instagram’s undeniable popularity, brands and businesses are still working out their own Insta-strategies. But a well thought out content program can make integrating Instagram into your social arsenal as easy as adding a Valencia filter. Blogs, Twitter and Facebook posts all perform better when accompanied by images. Get started on Instagram by assessing your content calendar through a visual lens. Ask yourself, how can I add an image to this post that will help sell my point of view?

The good news? With more and more brands joining Instagram, data is becoming available that reveals some of the best practices for boosting followers and engagement. Recently, Simply Measured shared their findings from a study of the Interbrand top 100 brands and their activity Instagram with AdWeek. Their research goes a long way to better understanding what content works on the platform. Here’s what businesses thinking of upping their Insta-game should consider:

1. Be activeSeventy-three percent of the 86 top 100 brands post at least one photo or video per week on Instagram. But the real champions of Instagram (Nike, if you’re wondering with its 7.3 million followers) post at least once a day. Twenty of the top 100 brands follow suit. In general – if you are blogging once a week, aim to Instagram with that frequency as well. Make it easy on yourself, by using Instagram as another channel to promote your blog – for example, by posting an image illustrating the main theme of that week’s blog post to amplify your message.

 2. Keep it short – Brands that are active on Instagram keep their posts to an average of 138 characters. You’re already in the habit of writing under 140 characters for your tweets, so aim for the same precision on Instagram (Added bonus? You can tweet out your Instagram without changing the copy.)  Again, work to get the most bang for your content buck – as you craft blog posts and tweets, challenge yourself to add an Instagram post to the content creation process.

3. Share the love – One of the most impressive (and useful) stats from Simply Measured’s research was that a post that tags another Instagram user, or includes an @ mention in the copy, increases engagement by an average of 56 percent.

4. Seven is your lucky number – When it comes to hashtags, be judicious. Simply Measured found that Instagrams with one or more hashtags average 12.6 percent more engagement. Most brands stick to a single hashtag, and 91 percent use seven or less. Hashtag where relevant, but don’t go overboard.

5. Think locally – Most brands (and people) don’t tag their location (just 5 percent of Simply Measured’s list of top 100 brands do), but thinking locally can have a big pay-off. Location-tagged posts saw 79 percent more engagement.

As reporters look for visual ways to tell their stories, they’re increasingly turning to Instragram and embedding the images right into their copy. Give your company a leg up by posting content on the platform that helps reinforce your culture, news and thought leadership.


Read more from Lee Glandorf

Medium: The Data Behind the Stories

I’m a Medium fan girl (InkHouse clients, I know a few of you are rolling your eyes in recognition). For those thinking, “What’s Medium?” it is the writing platform headed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. And it’s becoming a big deal. I was thrilled when Obama and Malala Yousafzai posted there recently and ratified my obsession. Medium has arrived.

I’ve been testing different types of Medium posts. Some I’ve cross-posted from our InkHouse blog, others I’ve posted directly to Medium and then syndicated elsewhere (LinkedIn Publishing, media outlets, etc.), and some I’ve posted only to Medium. The analytics on my personal tests show that content posted just on Medium has performed best within Medium itself. But this is far from scientific, so I sought hard facts and found them on Medium’s Data Lab.

But before I get into that, you need to know that Medium seeks stories not articles. It’s on the home page: “Everyone’s stories and ideas.” Medium systematically promotes quality content, and minimizes bad. It is decidedly not the place for product announcements, marketing brochures or press releases (although some companies have made announcements there albeit very different from a formal release). Medium is the place for writing the stories that make our relationships, our innovations, our companies, and our lives capable of shifting the world by finding their audiences.

What you need to know:

Medium prioritizes reading time, not clicks. Medium’s engagement metric is called Total Reading Time (TTR). In a post, Pete Davies in Medium’s product group writes, “I sometimes characterize Medium as content matchmaking: we want people to write, and others to read, great posts. It’s two-sided: one can’t exist without the other. What is the core activity that connects the two sides? It’s reading. Readers don’t just view a page, or click an ad. They read.” Headlines still matter, of course. You have to get someone to click before he or she will read. Herbert Lui has some good tips for Medium headlines here.

The Optimal Medium Post is 7 Minutes Long. According to Mike Sall in product science at Medium, 74% of posts are under 3 minutes long and 94% are under 6 minutes long. However, he leaves room for the shades of gray that make great writing great. As he wrote, “Great posts perform well regardless of length, and bad posts certainly don’t get better when you stretch them out.”

“The Medium network expands total time reading on older, lower-traffic stories by 64%.” Those are Medium’s words, not mine, but I believe them. Medium claims to provide “an audience writers can’t find on their own.” In my experience, this is true. In one of my recent tests, I posted a personal essay on Medium and nowhere else. My Medium network is much smaller than any of my social networks, so I was not expecting a wide audience there. In fact, I was expecting just a relatively small amount of traffic from Facebook and Twitter. On day one, Facebook was in the lead, but over the course of the two days after I published, my audience migrated to Medium where it skyrocketed. As of this writing, 58% of my audience was generated within or through its mobile app, compared to the 28% that came from Facebook. Perhaps most interesting is that Twitter, where I have the largest audience, only generated .01% of my traffic.

The most viral stories peak after the day of publication. In general, the virality of a story on Medium lasts four days, according to Sall. He writes that, “Most stories on Medium (and, frankly, most things on the web in general) see a similar traffic pattern: a spike on the day you publish and share it, and then the traffic tails off. But when you dig in, the stories that go viral see something different — their spikes last nearly a week, and they don’t actually peak until the third day.” On the other hand he notes, “The high-traffic stories are propelled beyond an author’s personal network.” Sall attributes this to lots of social shares on Medium and in other social networks.

As with any writing, the best way to determine your approach is to study what’s working (have you heard my rant about how press releases are supposed to read like news stories yet?). Medium has a link on its home page to the top stories. As I wrote this post, those top stories comprised an eclectic collection of topics including a dog who kept its owner alive, a live blog about the Oct. 16 Apple event, the security flaws in public WiFi, and hospitalization in the age of Ebola.

There’s room for lots more, it seems. Your audience is waiting.

Read more from Beth Monaghan

What We’ve Learned From Blogging

We often say that everyone at InkHouse is a social native. Yes, we have fun at cocktail parties, but that’s not what that means. It means that we all live and breathe social media and content; we don’t have a special department or title for anyone involving social because it is just part of everything everyone at InkHouse does. It’s part of how we think, not just at work, but often in our lives outside of work.

Case in point: It’s not uncommon during an agency brainstorming session for someone to speak about something interesting that they have learned in the test kitchen of their own personal blog, and is applying it to client work.

Here are a few examples:

InkHouse VP Samantha McGarry writes Keeping the Glass Half Full, about parenting, career and domesticity. She even writes about blogging, and her work is syndicated on Huffington Post Parents, Famtivity and the Framingham Patch. Through this process, she’s learned how to build relationships with other bloggers and insert her content into relevant conversations, then promote it beyond the typical mommy social channels of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest using tools such as Reddit and LinkedIn. By reviewing the analytics of her blog, she’s also learned the importance of inviting others to guest post, as well as keeping the content honest and varying the format and style to keep things fresh.

Linnea DiPillo, an account coordinator at InkHouse, keeps a tumblr blog called Every Artist Has a Birthday, which is really a quest to find new material about an artist that is not widely known. This has honed her research skills, which she puts to good use at work. The blog is visually and intellectually engaging, and so it’s no surprise that she gets a ton of engagement from readers. Posts on Van Gogh and Marina Abramovic have gotten tons of engagement, proving that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Greg Peverill-Conti is another vice president leading account teams, but he also enjoys photography and takes many website photos for clients – and for InkHouse. His Flickr also feeds his social channels, where you can admire his 1,000 Faces projects. He has a blog, too, called Over the River.

Alex Ingram, one of the men behind our Tie Thursday movement at InkHouse, not surprisingly keeps a fashion blog called A Boston Blazer. “I learned very quickly that engaging in ‘vendor-neutral’ conversations with others in my industry – at events, on twitter, over a beer – was far more effective at building recognition for myself than constantly pushing my own content.” Preach it, Alex. We tell clients this all the time.

As for me, the advice I will impart based on having two blogs, is: do as I say, not as I do. Two blogs is a lot of work! The first is called The Birth Book Blog, which I started in 2008 after publishing my first book, Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born. That blog took off when I serialized my own birth stories, and it didn’t make sense to layer on content related to my last book, Jackie After O. What I’ve learned is to keep it personal with a strong point of view, using gifs (not just for listicles) to lighten what can be a serious topic, and sharing posts with other like-minded bloggers. I still get tons of traffic from those that I’ve syndicated elsewhere – often years ago.

Read more from Tina Cassidy

Blogging and Brands: Five Takeaways from BlogHer 2014

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Over the last ten years, blogging and social media have provided women with a platform for communication, self-expression, activism, community and revenue. During this time, blogging platforms evolved, smartphones became ubiquitous, social media became second nature and brands, businesses and even politicians realized the influence of women and blogging.

This year, the BlogHer conference celebrated its tenth anniversary. What started out as a gathering of a few “mommy” bloggers has grown into a powerful enterprise that attracts a passionate gathering of more than 3,000 bloggers, the crème de la crème of keynote speakers and a who’s who of consumer brand sponsors. Attendees were entertained, educated and awed not only by powerhouse speakers/household names like Arianna Huffington and Kerry Washington but also by Twitter’s VP of brands Melissa Barnes (interviewed by “the most feared and well-liked journalist in Silicon Valley,” Kara Swisher), eBay’s CMO Richelle Parham and comedian Tig Notaro. We heard from some of the “original” bloggers from ten years ago and learned how the act of blogging for a decade has transformed their lives – both personally and professionally – as well as impacting society. And we were moved by the eloquence, courage, wit and insight of many individual bloggers who narrated their most powerful and personal stories during the Voices of the Year session. (Worth a read, believe me.)

There were many themes that resonated throughout BlogHer14. What struck me most – and which PR professionals and brand marketers should pay attention to – was that despite the quest for SEO, page views, traffic, monetization and buzz, the following five fundamentals still matter the most:

  1. Storytelling: Even if monetization is the goal, storytelling remains the essence of blogging. Stories matter, words matter, passion matters – these themes echoed. “Words make the world,” said blogging veteran, @schmutzie. Personal blogger @addyeB, who eschews SEO, described her approach: “Words burn hot and I need to get them out there.”  To build a connection with bloggers, PR and brand marketers must find a way to mesh their goals with the stories that bloggers want to tell. This is different from pitching reporters, according to @BusyDadBlog who commented: “Media is driven by information; bloggers are driven by passion and storytelling.”
  2. Authenticity: Having a voice and being true to it is something bloggers care about and are not willing to compromise for the sake of a brand. “Every sponsored post is a shot at your credibility,” explained successful blogger @kristenhowerton. She provided the example of a brand that pitched her to write about granola bars. She didn’t want to write about granola bars. But she did want to write about the benefits of unstructured play for kids and was able to weave granola bars into her story which made it all the more authentic, relatable and ultimately, more successful for both Kristen’s blog and the brand.
  3. Community: “Finding your tribe” was another consistent theme of BlogHer. The power of blogging to connect people with a common cause or passion. A vibrant community can amplify a message, propel activism and build strong connections and allies. But the conversations between members of a community may take place in many places – on social, in blog comments, forums and so on. For PR and brands, figuring out how and where to engage these communities can be very powerful.
  4. Dealing with negative comments: Blogging and social media gives people a platform to tell stories and speak their minds but they also give negativity a channel. There was a lot of discussion among the bloggers at the conference about how to deal with such negative content with options raising from block-and-delete and fighting back tactics to taking the high road and even learning from the trolls. @kristenhowerton explained her rationale: “When people like your stuff, they share it. When they don’t, they comment.” @Djazzo advised us to “Lean into the discomfort of negative comments. They inform the gravitas of your writing.” Equally, brands and business people are often subject to negative comments and, like bloggers, should use them to acknowledge and understand what motivates or annoys their audiences. You can find some good tips here.
  5. Influence: Bloggers and their communities wield enormous influence, especially when it comes to women, the ultimate target demographic for many brands. @BusyDadBlog acknowledged, “Bloggers have the power to change conversations and to make or break brands.” He commented that, with influence, comes the responsibility to be fair. eBay’s CMO Richelle Parham told the audience that eBay actively seeks out “passionate experts” to deliver “micro-endorsements” for brands selling through the platform. What makes a good influencer? “Someone who has a point of view, passion, a distinct voice and something unique and special to say,” she explained.

The chief takeaway for PR and brands: don’t overlook the fundamental motivations of bloggers and blogging communities. Find ways to help them tell the stories that matter to them. (You can find other practical tips for pitching mommy bloggers here.)

BlogHer14 drove thousands of tweets during its three days and after – here’s a handy dandy synopsis as told through 140 characters and images.

Read more from Samantha McGarry

Why you should be reading (and writing for) Medium

The history of the internet is as much about the evolution of new platforms for self-expression as it about search or e-commerce. From the earliest WordPress blogs, to Facebook, to Twitter and Tumblr, the internet is constantly changing the way we compose, share and discover new content. Perhaps no site has had more influence on the way we write than Twitter, which taught us that thoughts must be 140 characters or less, turned the @ symbol into a beacon and the hashtag into a trend (and meme.)

As the founder of both Blogger and Twitter, Evan “Ev” Williams is directly responsible for much of this evolution, as this New York Times feature lays out. His latest venture, Medium, a blogging and content sharing platform launched in 2012, is yet another foray into reshaping content creation. At two years old Medium is fast winning fans amongst professional and lay writers alike – not to mention tech industry super stars like Elon Musk. Musk’s decision to use Medium to announce a new Tesla Model S feature even prompted TechCrunch to ask “Is the company blog dead?”

As news outlets debate the merits of contributed content, Medium is decidedly democratic – a place where anyone can share their thoughts, stories or opinions. It’s (as Williams puts it): “a level playing field that encourages ideas that come from anywhere.” And that playing field now gets over 13 MILLION unique visitors a month (according the New York Times).

So, what’s fueling Medium’s growth?

First off, it’s pretty. Check out this very blog post on Medium (how meta). I’m no blogging genius and far from a designer, laying out this post is designed to be incredibly intuitive. Medium’s bold and simple layout means that it does not take a user experience designer to publish a professional story.

It makes sharing easy. Medium combines “algorithmic and editorial curation,” to share posts with other readers based on topic interest and engagement. This means that it’s not just name recognition that gets you eyeballs, but the merit of the content within. Much as a tweet can go viral, so too can a Medium post. While Twitter lets you see what’s trending in real time, Medium offers a list of the recent top 100 posts. June’s top stories reveal the breadth of writing experience on display: an entrepreneur’s tale of her company’s failure ranks just ahead of a freelance New York Times Magazine writer’s examination of Britney Spears as feminist icon.

It’s getting serious.  As more journalists, freelance writers and want-to-be’s flock to Medium, the site is making its own transition towards more traditional media. In June, Medium announced they’d hired Steven Levy, a former senior writer for Wired and chief technology writer and senior editor at Newsweek, as the editor in chief of their new technology site. Naturally, Levy took to Medium to share the news himself:

“One of the things that I love about Medium is its commitment to experimentation, one that I fully embrace. So a precise description of what this new venture is going to eventually become is gleefully elusive. But I can tell you this—it will feature not only my own best writing but the work of contributors who share my belief in deeply reported, colorfully rendered stories in and around the tech explosion. We will also draw on some of the amazing contributions that are already flowing into Medium—not only professional writers but also smart people chiming in spontaneously—and bring in outside voices of authority who will express their concerns, share their thoughts, and generally provoke our readers.”

So, what does this news mean for you? While the exact shape of this new venture should become clearer in the coming months, right now entrepreneurs and thought leaders have a huge opportunity to get in front of Medium’s growing technology audience by publishing their news, ideas and opinions on the platform. What are you waiting for?

Read more from Lee Glandorf

On Bad Content & Why GigaOm Changed its Guest Post Policy

A Checklist for Your Contributed Content

GigaOm decided to limit guest posts and I understand why. Late last month, Tom Krazit explained why in his piece, We’re updating our policies toward guest posts on GigaOm. Here’s why. The main reason: bad content.

There is only one thing to say about this from a PR standpoint – garbage in, garbage out. Yes, PR people are likely going to help shape the content. This is not new, or news. While some have decried this ghost-writing trend, the practice has been around as long as thoughtful people have been writing and speaking in public. In fact, we revere the speechwriters who crafted the memorable words we quote from presidents like JFK. We accept that not all influencers are great writers (even Sheryl Sandberg had a co-writer for Lean In – her name is Nell Scovell).

PR people are often the conduit for ideas. We help translate complex concepts into stories that are accessible to a broader audience. And yes, we should do a better job at parsing the good from the bad. I want to side with PR people, because I am one, and a proud one. But I also get it. I don’t own a media property and even I get pitched on guest post topics for the InkHouse blog that have nothing to do with PR or content marketing.

The problem and the opportunity is that there are so many places to offer these great ideas that more people are getting into the game. Content draws eyeballs, which can create leads so we have lots of content in search of stardom through native advertising, guest posts, Op-Eds, Medium, LinkedIn Publishing and more.

This rush of content will eventually ebb, and as we’re seeing with GigaOm, the best will rise to the top. It begs an important question for PR people and our clients: what is good content in the age when everyone is an expert and anyone can publish? This is the issue that compelled GigaOm to change its policy.

Before you pitch a contributed piece, consider these questions:

  • Is your idea original? Is it your idea? You need to be passionate about the idea or else no one else will. Authenticity shines through interpersonal relationships and it’s no different between an author and a reader. The reader absorbs the author’s state of mind.
  • Is the topic relevant to the industry conversation? If yes, why? Is it a unique perspective or is it the same as everyone else’s point of view?
  • Is your topic timely? If it’s related to news, make sure it’s today’s news, not last week’s or last month’s.
  • Is your content promotional? Does it include verbiage about your products and services? Does it include links back to your product pages and sales teams? Does it include your favorite company buzzwords that have lost their meaning through over use (“best-of-breed” and “leading edge” are red flags)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, no respectable media outlet will run the piece.
  • Is it well written? We’re not all natural writers, and many great thinkers need the support of great writers. Enter good PR people!

The same timeless basics of good PR apply to contributed content. Make it thoughtful. Make it relevant. Make it unique. Make it good.

Read more from Beth Monaghan

Obamacare Takes On Funny Or Die

What do you get when you combine President Obama, Zach Galifianakis and two ferns? A spike in traffic to the website – and some positive press for the Affordable Care Act.

This week President Obama surprised everyone with his latest and probably greatest plug for when he appeared on Galifianakis’ show “Between Two Ferns” on Funny or Die. After talking about everything from pardoning turkeys to Dennis Rodman to North Ikea, they got down to business and addressed the President’s goal of providing health insurance to all Americans.

While a Funny or Die skit might seem like a pretty odd place to talk about healthcare, it is actually a great example of understanding your target audience,  in this case is young adults aged 18 to 34, including how and where they consume information. Despite the fact that not all Funny or Die viewers will sign up for insurance via doesn’t diminish the value the skit provided. It gave the President the opportunity to use humor to address a topic that has received a lot of negative attention these past few months on a large, very popular stage.

In the first 12 hours after the video aired there were 19,000 referrals visits to and the numbers are still climbing. The video has had more than 15 million views and more than 270,000 Facebook likes. The video worked – people are talking about it, and in turn the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Sometimes the most effective way to get your message across requires stepping outside the box – and taking an interview with a guy who admits he smells like Doritos.

Read more from Jackie D'Andrea

9 Best Practices for Pitching Mommy Bloggers

A funny thing happened to me.

Sometime during the last two years, between working full time in PR at InkHouse and raising a family, I became a Mommy blogger. At first it was just a hobby, but I quickly realized I had found my voice and started nurturing my blog using many of the strategies that we at InkHouse put into practice every day for our clients. I use analytics to gauge the topics that resonate most. I distribute my content to relevant audiences using multiple channels to. I found places to seed and syndicate my blog posts including the local Patch site, a parenting website and even on Huffington Post Parents. I engaged with my readers and the Mommy blog community in general, through Twitter, commenting and so on. Soon enough, my little blog had a decent following and, to me, felt like home. So, as both a PR “veteran” and a “newbie” Mommy blogger, I wanted to offer the following  best practices for pitching Mommy bloggers.

But before I do, it’s worth taking a moment to consider why there are so many Mommy and Daddy bloggers. Speaking for myself, I blog to share my experiences as a working Mom, examine the daily challenges and frustrations of kids and raise issues – but mostly to laugh at the craziness of this time in my life. In doing so, us Mommy bloggers naturally share and connect with each other. But, for many Mommy bloggers, their blog is also a business venture. Brands know that Moms represent a powerful demographic with influence over purchasing decisions as well as a large voice on social media – and, for many Mommy bloggers, this spells opportunity. While generating revenue is not the mission of my blog, I have huge respect for those who have become respected brand ambassadors and turned their blogs into influential revenue-driving businesses at the same time.

I spend a large portion of my days here at InkHouse pitching bloggers and reporters on behalf of my clients. So imagine my surprise when, in a strange reversal of roles, people started pitching me! It has been a real eye-opener as, in truth, the large majority of these pitches fail to hit the mark. These tips can you ensure your pitch is a bullseye.

  1. Read: Job number one is to visit the blog you are pitching, read several posts and understand the mission of the blog. Is this the blog written by a mom who is journaling her daily parenting experiences? Is it more of a Mommy confessional? Does it tackle issues like health, education, behavior …etc.?  Does the blog accept guest contributions? Does it review products? This last one is my pet peeve because I’m quite often asked to review products and if you read my blog, you’d realize that it I don’t do this.
  2. Get social: Mommy bloggers are a vocal bunch. We are incredibly active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and so on. Before pitching, check out what they are doing and saying on each of these channels. Are they hosting Twitter parties? Are they running a brand campaign? Are they pinning recipes and after graphs? Are they commenting on hot issues? Every social action interaction is a clue, if you will, to help you formulate the best approach for each blogger.
  3. Engage: This goes hand-in-hand with the above. Get chatty! Especially on Twitter. Build a relationship on social channels through non-promotional conversation – just be you! It will pay dividends when you finally reach out.
  4. Relate: Don’t be impersonal when pitching a Mommy blogger. While you may not be a parent, show that you can relate to them and their universe. Let them know why their audience would care about your pitch topic or offer. Authenticity and relevance go a long way to making a good impression with bloggers.
  5. Mix it up: Don’t just push products: Mommy bloggers enjoy many forms of content like videos, photos, and infographics. Provide the content assets that will help ensure that what they publish is visually strong, interesting and entertaining. Because that will make it inherently more shareable.
  6. Get linky: Mommy blogs often create opportunities to link your blog to their blog via link ups or blog hops.. Checkout 5MinutesforMom’s annual ultimate blog party, for example or Scratchy Mommy’s weekly link up. Research which of your target blogs offer these and get linky. It can help drive a great deal of traffic to your content too.
  7. Spend a little bit of money: As I said many Mommy blogs are a small business themselves. Often they might require a small amount of money to write up review a product, host a Twitter party or a custom campaign. Do it; it’s worth it. There are also paid networks of Mommy bloggers like Social Moms via which you can create campaigns and buzz.
  8. Giveaways: Many Mommy blog love to offer their readers giveaways or contest prizes and offer paid packages to help you reach a mass audience. This can be a great way to not only boost visibility but to also get your product directly into the hands of your target audience.
  9. A final note about guest posts: Not all Mommy blogs accept them but some do. It’s always worth reading their  “about” or “about me” sections to find out. Make sure, when you pitch a contributed post, that you propose a specific topic/angle rather than something too general. Don’t be promotional. Make it relatable and authentic, in line with the tone and voice of the blog.
Read more from Samantha McGarry

Seven Tips for Good PR Writing

There’s an unfinished conference room in the back of our office where no one ever goes. Table tops lie on their sides with no legs. Deconstructed cubicles stand against the walls, shelves and desktops assorted like giant puzzle pieces. A dry erase marker lies on the ground, never used.

It’s there in the dark that I write.

As public relations professionals, content generation is becoming an ever more important part of our job. Clients need a continuous stream of blog posts, opinion articles, news releases, feature articles and social media posts to connect with their audiences.

I’ve been writing a lot of content recently. For me, writing good content taps a different part of the brain than that required for the conference calls, quick-response emails and meetings that dominate most days. Here are seven things that help me when writing content for PR.

1. Cut the coffee. On writing days I skip the coffee. When undercaffeinated and relaxed, my writing is smoother and more conversational. Back in my reporter days, I tried the whiskey in the bottom drawer trick but that made me a little too relaxed. Save that ‘til after the writing’s done.

2. Ditch your desk. I associate my desk with the flurry of activity that fills most days – the constant emails, phone calls and Twitter checks. By moving to a different location to write such as an arm chair in the lobby, I remove myself from that frenetic mindset and can think more clearly. Ideas flow and words arrive.

3. Lean back. An NBC News article featuring InkHouse’s own Beth Monaghan pointed out that posture makes a huge difference in how you feel and think. I couldn’t agree more. I write far more clearly and quickly when I’m leaning back – while seated on the floor of a dark conference room in the back of the office, say — instead of perched forward on the edge of my seat at a desk. Sure, colleagues will ask about the sketchy character writing in the dark but they’ll get used to it after a while.

4. Peek at photos. I know this sounds weird but looking at photos of beautiful art, the ocean or wildlife just before writing helps me think and write more creatively. The same goes for reading longer, thoughtful articles in The New Yorker, say, or Grantland. Stay away from breaking news, which will make you tense and less able to write well.

5. Exit email. You’ve heard this 1,000 times so I won’t dwell on it. Constant email checks are the bane of good writing.

6. Clear a chunk of time. For me, blocking off a couple hours or even a morning to write blog posts or a contributed article is the most efficient way to lose myself in the story and write it well. If I try to squeeze it in between client calls and emails, it always takes three times as long – if it gets done at all.

7. Make it a conversation. I try and think of every article, release or post I write as a conversation with the person who’s reading it. I write like I would say it. I use short sentences as if I were talking. Thinking of it as a conversation makes what you’re writing – you guessed it – more conversational and easier to read. You’d never say “functionality” and “value proposition” so why would you write them?

Those are things that help me write well. What works for you?

Read more from John McElhenny

Moving Beyond Text for PR Success


Earlier this week InkHouse participated in a PR News Webinar called Pitching the Media: How to Cut Through The Clutter. Our colleagues on the panel included Tracy Schario, communications officer for the Pew Charitable Trusts, who talked about why it’s essential to be aware of major news events – either to plug into them or to avoid pitching at a time when journalists are otherwise occupied; and Jane Carpenter, head of public relations for online home retailer Wayfair, discussed how to build personal relationships with journalists.

For our part, InkHouse explained why it’s important to move beyond text when pitching, to include things like graphics and film as a way to stand out. Here’s some background: Newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30 percent since its peak in 2000. But media properties from Forbes, to TechCrunch, VentureBeat, the Atlantic Monthly, Harvard Business Review, Huffington Post, and Wired (to name a few) all publish contributed content. This means that news outlets are hungry for journalistic content. And yet, it should not all be text based because 90 percent of the information transmitted to our brains is visual and we process that content 60,000 times faster than text.

Social media trends are reflecting this insight as well. Just look at the surging popularity of Instagram, which hit 100 million users earlier this year, and marked 5 million videos within the first 24 hours of debuting the offering. The good news is there is tremendous opportunity for publishing content. The trick is to make it stand out from the very crowded market.

Here are just three of the tips we shared on how to do this:

1. Make the content journalistic. Social content is about how you think, not what you do. When companies “publish promotional information or tired case studies masquerading as thought leadership, results fall flat,” according to Forrester Research. We agree.

2. Use data to validate your point of view. Whether it is your own proprietary information, a partnership with a third party, or aggregating others’ data, backup your claims with facts.

3. If you are launching a new product, consider pitching a video instead of a just sending a press release.  News sites are often hungry for visual content. That goes for infographics, too. The bottom line is social content brings people to your digital media properties by providing fuel for engaging with the press more regularly; driving coverage in and of itself; and illuminates your perspective, which fuels interest for quotes and coverage. Social content is also great because you can control it – the message and the distribution.

Read more from Tina Cassidy