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Category Archives: Journalism

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The Impact of Engagement Science on the News

And you thought those photos of the 10 puppies you had to see before you die were all just for fun. Engagement science is transforming the news business. From Buzzfeed’s listicles to Medium’s focus on reads over clicks. It’s all about the data, which is all about engagement – and it’s increasingly all about social.

Why? The explosion of mobile is changing the way people interact with the news. When we’re sitting in front of our laptops, we search. But on mobile, we sit back. We share, but we rarely search. Consumers let information come to us on our mobile phones via push notifications and the cockpits of our favorite social media platforms.

This train’s momentum is strong. Buzzfeed reports that 71% of millennials visit social media sites daily. And mobile has “taken the lead as the primary platform for social – 60% of time spent on social is on mobile (Buzzfeed/eMarketer). Social media isn’t the only car on this mobile train. Video is driving massive usage. Check out these stats:

This behavioral shift is changing the way people read the news. Facebook is encroaching on the territory of the traditional news home page. We’ve seen media properties such as Mashable publish articles first on Facebook, and we’ve seen click bait taken to a new level by suspicious and anonymous publishers (read The Story Behind Click Bait Cluttering Your Facebook Feed). And last week, even The New York Times got into the Instagram game.

The bottom line: An article, video, infographic, blog post, you name it, is the first step, not the last. It must become social, through earned (and sometimes paid) amplification strategies that can bring the message to its audiences.

Read more from Beth Monaghan

Podcasts are the New Black for Consumers and Advertisers

Two months ago my commute increased from 30 minutes to an hour as I embarked on a new career path at InkHouse. The longer drive proved streaming Spotify to be a drain on my data package, while the radio played the same 5 songs on repeat. Coincidentally, I had seen a lot of buzz on social media around this new series called “Serial.” I found out I could download it to my phone through the iOS Podcasts app, so I gave it a listen one Monday morning drive. By Wednesday evening I was sitting in silence on my couch, clinging to the last few minutes of this gripping 12-episode story. This was my first introduction to podcasts, and I was hooked. I immediately went back to the Podcasts app to discover my next audio adventure. I guess I’m not the only one – Americans are listening to more than 21 million hours of recorded shows like “Serial” every day, according to Edison Research.

Podcasts don’t stack up to TV, radio, or web consumption quite yet, but the numbers show it’s quickly on the rise. Serial can be considered the medium’s breakout success – with over 5 million downloads or streams of the series and over 1.5 million listeners per episode. Where Serial differs from the rest is in its continual storytelling throughout the series. Serial carried listeners through the revisited murder of Hae Min Lee, and the conviction of her then boyfriend Adnan Syed. Each episode heightens suspense for the next, unraveling more details about the 1999 case and raising questions about Adnan’s conviction. Despite whom you side with when listening to Serial, one thing is certain: reporter Sarah Koenig has brought new light to Adnan’s questionable sentencing that is no longer being ignored, and her millions of listeners are begging for what’s next.

Serial shows that the once beloved medium for tech-geeks has become more universally accepted with simpler “click-to-download” or “stream here” methods of consumption. People can now listen to the podcasts they love wherever, whenever – Netflix for your ears. But Serial is just one show in the sea of podcasts, with very few advertisers, asking primarily for listener donations to keep the show going. Over 1 million users actively downloading Serial without a huge advertising push exemplifies the opportunity for a new wave of content marketing.

As podcasts rise in popularity, so does the ability for brands to easily exhibit their thought leadership to an audience willing to listen – all you need is the Internet. By adding simplicity to content creation and introducing more personalization, podcasts are quickly becoming an alternative to radio. Steve Litchfield, producer of the Phones Show podcast, explains, “Podcasting is viable because it’s on-demand, which means listeners won’t miss a thing. Also, podcasts contain in-depth and informative content, whereas radio is often transient and overly chatty, with little substance.” Brands can bring their storytelling to life by cutting out much of the clutter involved in traditional content distribution.

If brands are not looking to begin an original series, they still have an opportunity to sponsor an existing, relevant podcast as a new advertising medium. PodcastOne is hoping to bring major brands onboard as investors into the rise of these programs. The company aggregates shows and sells ads in bundles across their combined audience while sharing the revenue with its programmer.

Even more valuable is the opportunity for sponsored content. Very few podcasts have introduced sponsored content into their programming, but the ones that have are doing it well. A new podcast I’ve been enjoying is Reply All, simply defined as “a show about the Internet.” Hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman are always sure to make note of sponsored content, but when it involves a clip of PJ calling his dad to define the word “intranet” as a promotion for Igloo Software, it seamlessly fits right into the rest of the episode. Reply All also sponsors content from Squarespace, a website builder that has been advertising on podcasts for the last 5 years.

Podcasts are personal,” says Ryan Stansky, marketing manager for Squarespace, “We have the opportunity to get hosts genuinely excited about our products and values. When they relay an authentic message to a large audience who trusts them, it benefits everyone involved, because the show is supported, we get new business, and the customer learns about a product that is useful in their personal and/or professional life.”

Podcast Data

As you can see, podcasts are the new black for content consumption. They can go where TV and Internet (hopefully) draw the line: while you drive, while you cook, and even while you shower – guilty. But what about sponsored content – does it even work? Out of the 39 million average monthly listeners, 54% have made a purchase from podcast ads – AKA yes, it’s working.

Now that I’ve convinced you to hop on the podcast bandwagon, where should you begin? Here’s a start, and the comments section is worth reading this time. If you’ve been around the podcast block, we’d love to know what’s on your playlist. Happy listening!

Read more from Jill Jankowski
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My 4 Favorite 2015 Predictions from the Nieman Journalism Labs

Along with fad diets and crowded gyms, one thing you can always count on with an impending new year is predictions. From next year’s hottest tech trends to the celebrity baby watch, people around the world are predicting what’s in store for 2015, and experts watching the media industry are no different.

Earlier this month, the Nieman Journalism Lab, a Harvard-affiliated organization pushing the future of journalism, asked a select list of experts in the world of media to predict what 2015 will bring to the field.

Here are some of my favorites:

The rise of bullsh*t data journalism: According to Jacob Harris, senior software architect at The New York Times, “the wave of bullshit data is rising, and now it’s our turn to figure out how not to get swept away.”

Harris worries about the state of journalism as he watches news organizations flood their sites with “fast, cheap stories” just to hit their monthly traffic numbers. “And everybody knows that posts that feature several key charts or 40 maps that explain something tend to do pretty well in traffic,” he says.

Well, yes, they do. But we at InkHouse believe there is a proper way companies can gather credible data that will serve as a strong piece of their PR program. In a previous post, Beth Monaghan outlines the right ways to produce newsworthy data, which includes partnering with a credible third-party research firm to generate data that is valid and unique and will thereby enable a brand to offer new perspective to a conversation already taking place in the news.

Native helps pay for the news: Native advertising certainly had its moment in the spotlight in 2014, and from the sound of it, 2015 will be no different. According to Amanda Hale, vice president of advertising and creative solutions at Talking Points Memo, “2015 will be the first year where native advertising programs will be in place at nearly every serious news organization… And I think that’s totally pivotal for journalism.”

Native, she says, “plays to the very heart of serious news organizations’ strengths” and her hope is that 2015 will be the year when people begin to see native advertising as a vitally important revenue stream for a publication, rather than a threat to journalistic standards.

We at InkHouse would say the jury is still out on native advertising. While we certainly encourage anything that financially supports our favorite news organizations, and wholeheartedly support brands producing their own content, we still find great success by first packaging a CEO’s point of view or insightful data into articles, infographics and slideshows that, as Tina Cassidy says, “get published, just like real journalism, on legitimate sites such as Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, Fast Co., Wired, and many others…without having to pay.”

Let’s see if developments in 2015 change our minds.

The readers we can’t friend: Heidi Moore, U.S. finance and economics editor at The Guardian, makes one of my favorite predictions: she says there is still a significant segment of this country that wants to consume news, but aren’t as clued in to the newest content platform or real-time news app as journalists and PR representatives.

It is her hope that 2015 is the year we start to address the news consumption needs of this group. “For those who need to survive, this is the key. For those who need to thrive, the next step to growth is reaching beyond the readers who are sitting ducks on social platforms. They want the news too.”

As the daughter of a man who loves the news – who made me love the news – but doesn’t spend time trolling his Facebook feed and likely has no idea what Twitter is, I completely agree. Through our obsession with social platforms, we are leaving out a good chunk of the population who wants to read our stories too.

People are willing to pay for good content: Maria Bustillos, a critic and writer in Los Angeles, says “2015 will see a tipping point in favor of subscription-based journalism online.” And with publications like The New Yorker, Financial Times and The New York Times maintaining successful subscription-based business models, it is clear that readers are willing pay for online access to worthwhile content.

The Wall Street Journal’s social media editor Sarah Marshall adds to that sentiment, saying that paying for news on mobile should be as easy as getting an Uber: “Name me a paid-for news site that has a payment method so easy that a new subscriber could sign up in less than five minutes while in a dark room after having consumed a few glasses of festive punch.”

Now, if content subscriptions are as cheap as getting an Uber, I am all in.

You can read these predictions and many more at the Nieman Journalism Lab site. We are eager to see what 2015 brings, and hope you are too.

Read more from Kristen Raymaakers

Pitching Resolutions: What Reporters Want in 2015

I recently had a chance to sit down with reporters from ABC, Bloomberg, Forbes, Fox and TIME, and they were kind enough to share with me what they want from PR professionals in the New Year. Bottom line: The days of smiling and dialing are long gone. Relationships do matter, as does taking time to figure out what stories the reporter may find interesting, understanding their beats and tailoring pitches, as obvious as that sounds. Here’s how a few top tier reporters put it – in their own words:

 Richard Davies, ABC News Radio business correspondent, had this to share:

·       Keep it brief: My time is valuable, and my attention span is short!

·       Sharpen up your writing skills. Put your best idea in the first sentence of your pitch.

·       Never on Thursday: It’s very often the busiest day of the week for news events. Try pitching stories on Friday afternoon or Monday morning.

·       In-person may beat online. Try to do some of your business face-to-face, not always on the phone or via email.

Forbes and Inc. contributor Peter Cohan shared this wish for 2015:

“I want PR people to introduce me to clients who can help me write about my favorite topics – for Inc.: surprising tips for achieving startup success and for Forbes: startups that are taking customers from publicly traded companies.” 

James Rogers, Fox News science and technology editor, encourages people to be extra cognizant that he is talking to several spokespeople a day and producing stories at a rapid pace. Most importantly, he encourages people to really take the time to determine what stories he is likely to cover.

A technology reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek said the best pitches connect companies to something bigger than them. Reporters are more likely to write about something that they can put their own stamp on, rather than just taking an announcement and working very narrowly. Many PR people seem to realize this, but fail by going much too broad. As a tech reporter, there’s nothing I can do with the trend of “increasing interest in mobile” or “bringing your device to work.” So, as wide as you can go while remaining specific. Also, if you’re going to connect a pitch to someone’s past work, you have to be right about what someone covers. I’d rather have no attempt at a personal tie-in than one that comes off phony.

Jason Sanchez, TIME and Money video producer, also wants PR professionals to take the time to get to know his coverage areas and let him get to know company executives without the pressure of having it lead to automatic coverage. “I don’t want the pressure of taking the interview to then have you and your client think that automatically means a piece in the next week, month or even three months. Have the patience and flexibility to see that maybe it isn’t going to be an immediate story, but there’s potential for it down the road.”

So before you raise a glass and sing “Auld Lang Syne,” take some time to think about upping your media pitching game in 2015. Happy New Year, and happy pitching!

Read more from Elizabeth Yekhtikian

The Boston Globe Launches New Business Section with Charlie Baker Q&A

The Boston Globe is placing bets on Boston and journalism. Last night, owners John and Linda Henry hosted a launch event for the new Business section with a Q&A between Sacha Pfeiffer and Governor-elect Charlie Baker. Pfeiffer didn’t disappoint the crowd and asked all of the tough questions – non-profit CEO compensation, the impact of sea level rise on our heavy development close to the shore, healthcare reform and budget cuts. Baker was open and candid, joking, “Do you have any easy questions?”

The new Business section debuted yesterday, and I can’t think of a better time. We have a new mayor, a new incoming governor, and a new Chamber of Commerce CEO in the near future. In the video the Globe aired last night, which appears below, commercial real estate reporter Casey Ross notes that in 2016, 7 million square feet of new buildings are scheduled to open in Boston, a level we’ve never seen before in our city’s history. Columnist Shirley Leung, whom Editor Brian McGrory called, “one of the most talented columnists in the nation,” noted that, “Business and the economy remain the biggest stories in this town.” And Pfeiffer talked about her plans to make the Business section something you have to read “because the stories…are just so interesting and unusual.”

The team is led by Business Editor Mark Pothier whose enthusiasm introduces the video. Last night, I was happy to run into some of the veterans I’ve read for years who will be contributing to the section – people like Beth Healy (financial and investigative) and Scott Kirsner (innovation). There is also is a smart team of newer faces – Jon Chesto, Taryn Luna, Priyanka McCluskey, Callum Borchers, and more (see the Globe’s masthead).

The energy in the room was high, and attendance was a who’s who of Boston business, despite tough competition for attendees from The Massachusetts Conference for Women (where Hillary Clinton keynoted earlier in day), and BostInno’s 50 in Fire. I’m proud to live in this city, one that we often note is small and interconnected, yet one in which three business events can all thrive.

Overall, the new Business section will now have its own section front five days a week and a bunch of new features, including “Talking Points,” which is a summary of the top business news, and the “Agenda” with event highlights. The inside pages bring together a mix of the driving forces of our economy, from hip startup workspaces, to apps shaping our digital social future, to serious issues that affect our healthcare system. And “Bold Types” is a fun take on personnel changes; yesterday’s inaugural edition had musings about the next head of the Massachusetts Tax Payers Foundation and The Chamber.

The best part about the new business section is that there will be more of it – with a continued effort on serious journalism. How does a bombarded public know which voices to trust when anything can break through by latching onto a trending Twitter hashtag, or leaning on a radical point of view? The Globe just might be the only newspaper in America that is investing serious money in actually expanding the kind of journalism that focuses the noise. I’m looking forward to more.

Read more from Beth Monaghan

In-Depth, Ethical Reporting and Breaking News Drive Broader Editorial Focus at VentureBeat

I had a chance to sit down recently with Dylan Tweney, executive editor of VentureBeat, to chat about the evolving focus of one of the tech industry’s best known media properties. The brand might cause some to mistakenly think of VentureBeat as simply an online news site covering venture capital news and investment trends, but it actually has a much broader, more diverse scope.

However, before diving into some of VentureBeat’s particulars in terms of focus, there is definitely another message that was loud and clear from my discussion with Dylan. He takes tremendous pride in accentuating the integrity that underscores VentureBeat’s reporting.

“We don’t invest in the companies we cover and we stress ethical reporting in everything we do,” he said at the outset of the discussion. “We take objective reporting and analysis very seriously.”

When he told me this during our meeting in mid-October, I’ll admit that I treated it as a throwaway mission statement. As when companies say “customer service” is what sets them apart, it’s a hard thing to prove quantitatively.

What makes Dylan’s ethics statement more interesting now versus when he first said it is that with the recent “Ubergate” scandal involving an executive touting the potential merits of opposition research on journalists and singling out a few prime targets, you have to wonder if this message has become more than a mission statement. I am definitely not implying that any VentureBeat competitors are in any way unethical. The vast majority of journalists we work with are highly ethical, strive for objectivity and balance, and are discerning about the stories and companies they cover.

However, journalism is like politics in that often the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest can be as bad in the realm of public opinion as actual wrongdoing. So in an age where media outlets share investors with the companies they cover, it inevitably draws immature mudslinging by executives who work for companies outside of that portfolio even in the absence of any evidence.  That was part of the poor explanation for why the Uber executive attacked a specific journalist—the media outlet shares an investor with Uber’s top competitor, Lyft.

Bottom line: ethics and objectivity are important in journalism just as understanding what makes a good and balanced story is important in public relations. Unfortunately, questioning someone’s integrity without merit is oftentimes easier than fixing what is being criticized.

Other things worth relaying from our discussion:

  • In-depth reporting—another point hammered on by Dylan was VentureBeat’s focus on telling a more in-depth story. In an age where it seems like speed trumps depth in storytelling, it’s good to hear that there is a media property trying to tell more complete stories. What this means for PR people is that there is an opportunity to go beyond the executive interview and provide data, third-party validation (users, analysts, investors) and additional context to help get across a more nuanced message.
  • Increasing commitment to breaking news—when asked what competitor he respects, Dylan cited Re/code as an outlet that gets a lot of stories before the crowd and does a good job reporting the details of those stories. Along those lines, VentureBeat has made recent news hires in New York and Toronto as a commitment to breaking more stories. This breaking news focus, combined with a commitment to going more in-depth means that VentureBeat could be an attractive place for more exclusives.
  • VB Events—VentureBeat recently announced its 2015 event lineup with an emphasis on gaming, marketing technology and mobile. The events are well attended by investors, market disruptors and other technology industry stakeholders, and are open to outside speakers.
  • VB Insight—the recently launched research side of VentureBeat generates reports targeted at marketing, sales and business-development audiences. With former VentureBeat editorial contacts and some newly hired analysts, Dylan expects the Insight side of things to grow quickly and to stress the same ethical approach as the editorial side of things.

Overall, Tweney made it clear how committed VentureBeat is to in-depth, ethical reporting that goes a step further than one-off news stories. If you can bring something interesting or additional that goes beyond “Acme Tech announces…” you have a good shot to at least get the ear of a VentureBeat staffer.

Read more from Jason Morris

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

Five Updates to the 2014 Associated Press Stylebook

The 2014 AP Stylebook is full of tricks and treats for writers as they peruse the newest edition of the journalistic-writing reference to keep their prose perfect. Packed with updates that have caused uproars from many linguists to some that have reflected the always-adapting English language, navigating the more than 500-page guide doesn’t have to be frightening – here are five of the most important updates:

  1. More than, over: An entry that has many writers up in arms, over is now OK to use in place of more than in reference to quantity. Editors enacted the change because over has become common usage; however, many writers are opting to stick with more than because it’s the norm in news writing.
  2. Updated state names: Gone are the days of memorizing which states require abbreviations and which ones are spelled out. Now, the names of all 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of news stories. State names will continue to be abbreviated in datelines and lists.
  3. New chapter about religion: Reflecting the changing landscape of religions in the U.S. and across the globe, a new chapter compiles 208 entries, including extensive revisions, such as Advent, megachurch, nondenominational and religious movements.
  4. Expanded food guidelines: More than three dozen new entries such as Buffalo wings, demi-glace, mixologist, vegan and vegetarian.
  5. Additional social media entries: Updates include emoji, Internet radio, selfie, Snapchat and Vine – all words that are now part of daily vocabulary.

Be sure to follow @APStylebook for live updates and to participate in the grammar conversation.


Read more from Steve Vittorioso

Got Data? It’s Time to Get Yourself a Silk

By now, you likely know how valuable data can be; if not, I recommend you start with Beth Monaghan’s post on data journalism. Data can help establish your company’s thought leadership platform, root your point of view in authority, demonstrate new trends on the horizon or that old trends are, well, old. If your company has data (whether it’s your own or commissioned by a research firm), it can be valuable in more ways than just helping you make critical business decisions.

The challenge with data is figuring how best to analyze and share with your target audiences. The truth is, with rich data, the possibilities can be endless. Campaigns that present valuable insights can not only benefit your bottom line, but can also help your customers, partners and the broader industry. That’s why I got so excited when I came across Silk, a Web app that helps you collect, sort and view information you need – without making you comb through the data yourself. You can organize, publish and share data publicly (for free) or privately (for a membership fee). Each Silk contains data on a specific topic; for example, it should come as no surprise that there is a Silk on Ebola outbreaks.

How it works

Getting started can be as easy as uploading an Excel file, which is then turned into an interactive site that lets users engage and interact with your data. You can even embed your data “visualizations” across the Web – on your website, blog, Tumblr, etc.

If you aren’t ready to use Silk for your own data, you can use it to sort through data from other sites. A few good examples of sites include Wikipedia, IMDB and CrunchBase, all which provide a lot of data about specific topics. Silk allows you to drill down to find the information you need without extensive searching and comparing.

From a PR perspective, a new data-sharing tool like this is very exciting. There are numerous ways to integrate it into your PR/marketing program, such as creating a Silk as a component of a market research campaign, identifying new trends or content and finding data that complements existing collateral (e.g., infographics).

We all know how valuable data can be. And we all know how daunting the task of collecting and sorting through that data can seem. But, with tools like Silk that allow you to experiment with the vast data out there, there is really no reason to not at least give it a try.

Read more from Kristin Parran Faulder
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9 Ways to Prepare for the Unprepared Reporter

Last week in interview between a C-level executive of a Fortune 500 and a reporter at a major daily newspaper, the reporter got on the phone and started out by saying, “Remind me what we are talking about today.”

Cringe. PR person summarizes subject to be discussed. Exec acts polite and pretends to roll with it. Reporters asks spontaneous stream of questions. Call ends. Exec yells at in-house communications manager. Client yells at InkHouse. All asking the same thing:

 “How could THIS happen?”

THIS… after multiple conversations, emails and background materials exchanged between the reporter and the PR person.

But the truth is, THIS happens more and more everyday. As reporters are crunched for time, they often enter interviews without having done much, if any, prep. This is especially true when the PR person suggested the story topic and pitched the interview (versus the reporter coming to you with a story idea in mind). Obviously the subject interested the reporter in the first place or he wouldn’t have taken the interview. But as a PR professional, you can’t count on that meaning that the reporter will have everything in front of him  or her for the interview.

Most PR people jump through hoops to make sure the reporter is vetted, is given all the background (usually in long form and in bullets to make it easier), and to confirm the time and subject matter of the interview.

Yet, despite all this preparation, you should be ready if a reporter seems unprepared. It is just the reality of today’s fast-paced news cycles and reporters who are often stretched too thin.

So how do you prepare for the unprepared reporter?

  1. Expect the reporter to know nothing. Ask him upfront if he had a chance to look at the background that was sent. If not, use the opportunity to open up the conversation and message the news in the way you see fit.
  2. Stay calm, don’t show you’re annoyed… but also don’t be a pushover. This is your chance to take the lead.
  3. Be careful not to mistake a reporter’s silence for unpreparedness. Sometimes silence is the way reporters get you to over-answer questions – especially tough ones. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence. Answer the reporter’s questions and move on.
  4. If the reporter goes off topic, politely steer him back to the intended subject matter. Use segues such as, “Today we’re together to talk about X…” and get back on track.
  5. Similarly if the reporter is asking irrelevant questions, reframe the question in the right direction with transitions such as, “I think a better question is…” or “What’s relevant here is….”
  6. Don’t answer questions based on a flawed premise. For example, if the reporter asks a question that has inaccurate information baked in, politely point it out and don’t answer the question. The same goes for speculative questions based on an idea you are unfamiliar with (e.g. “I hear Google is thinking of entering your space. How do you feel about that?”) This is an important rule of thumb in all interviews, but especially in cases where reporters have not had a chance to do any prep.
  7. After the interview concludes, send the reporter a thank you and follow-up note summarizing the key points of the conversation and also ensure that he has your materials. You’d be surprised how many times reporters will use it.
  8. Don’t go back afterwards and ask your PR team to pull the story. If you move forward with the interview, expect the story to appear. If the interview is going wildly off track, politely end the call. Note, however, that this should only be done in the most extreme circumstances.
  9. Once the story appears, make sure it is on track. If not, you can request the corrections – but only to the facts. Don’t expect a reporter to change tone or opinions – and asking for those kinds of changes can hurt your relationship with the reporter (and the publication) down the road.

Remember it is the job of the spokesperson – along with the PR team – to tell your story in the interview. Don’t let an unprepared reporter keep you from missing the opportunity!

Read more from Meg O'Leary

Top Five Reasons In-Person Relationship Building Meetings Still Count

Your client wants an in-person meeting in NYC next month with a business reporter covering their industry and pressure is on to book it. There is no breaking news or hard news associated with the meeting. There are some pretty good reasons we don’t do as many in-person meetings these days: reporters are just too busy and charged with writing too many stories a day to take 45 minutes to an hour out of their day and meet when they could do a phone interview and be done with the interview in 20 minutes.

Although not as common and easy to book these days, there is still a real value in establishing a relationship with a reporter and making a connection in person. I recently sat down with ABC News business reporter Richard Davies and got his take on why coffee meetings still matter and how to make these meetings more effective.

1 –Have something interesting to bring to the table: You need to have something compelling to say during the meeting. Davies recounts a story of how he recently met with an executive from a large automotive company, and the meeting lacked substance as the spokesperson didn’t have anything new to say about the industry and couldn’t discuss any big picture trends. This is a lost opportunity and a waste of time for everyone involved.

2-Quality vs. quantity: “I didn’t get into journalism to crank out stories as quickly as possible. I got into this industry to write quality pieces,” Davies stated. “If I can have a meaningful conversation with a person for one hour that can eventually lead to a story down the line, this is extremely valuable to me.”

3-In-person meetings spark excitement and ideas:  Davies explains that he gets 20 pitches by email a day and that doesn’t include story suggestions from his news team or phone calls. If he can have a meeting with an interesting person who is quotable, helpful and an expert in their industry, this naturally benefits him. “No question that sitting across the table from a person is going to foster more creativity and conversation.”

4-PR people need to get it too: Davies says a pet peeve is when PR people don’t play by the rules and just expect him to meet with their client when they haven’t properly researched his work and do not have a refreshing news hook or trend to discuss. He says that it is refreshing indeed to hear from a PR person who has done his or her homework and is comfortable talking to him on the phone about why the meeting would be beneficial.

5-Be patient: By building a relationship and establishing credibility as a spokesperson, you are going a long way toward eventually seeing a story placement. It may take months, but if the meeting was productive, coverage will eventually happen.

So next time a face-to-face meeting is on the table, don’t sweat it and pick up the phone and pitch a trend, not a product or service. Make sure you are quotable in person and remember that the purpose of the meeting is not coverage today, but building a relationship over time that will eventually lead to ink.


Read more from Elizabeth Yekhtikian