10 Questions Entreprenurs Should Ask To Focus

Why 5% Succeed Best Selling Book CoverJackie Nagel, at Synnovatia offers excellent questions every entrepreneur should ask to focus their vision. That got me thinking about some of the examples I’ve collected, saved and used when developing projects, designing possibilities or delivering profit.

Elaine Starling co author of Why 5% Succeed: The 5 Principles of Predictable Profit, shares Key Questions To Triple Bottom Line Any Project, Business or endeavour worthy of your time and attention.

So once you know what your why is all about, you can focus on your customers. One of the best ways to do that is to Build an empathy map of your customers, clients. This is a powerful exercise and it’s often uncanny how close you can come without any other market research. If you do verify your empathy map with research or focus groups, you’ll have highly relevant data. If you do or don’t verify with focus groups, revisiting the empathy map regularly to revise or refine is essential if it’s to remain a useful tool.

Once you build an empathy map of your ideal customer it informs the steps to be taken that implement your customer engagement strategies. If you’ve done this much, your chances of producing relevant results for both sides of the bargain.are pretty good. That’s something to build on.

Asking questions is part of how we’re wired so why not ask really good ones? The best advice I have on the subject is to really be present when listening to the responses..

Journalism And Media Relations

Street Sign With Media Types as DirectionalsAccording to computer giant IBM, 2.5 exabytes – that’s 2.5 billion gigabytes (GB) – of data was generated every day in 2012. That includes print, digital video, audio, and every possible social media mashup and trend to stimulate somebody’s glandular system. Getting the story is as important as telling the story. And getting both of them right is the hallmark of quality content.

@mp_research has written about some of the new elements journalists have to contend with to tell a relevant story. After all, its all  news all the time for somebody Extra, Extra! .Read all about disruption in journalism, media and the news.

According tothe results of the 2015 Business Wire Media Survey.an analysis of journalists from around the globe show that upstarts like BuzzFeed and the New York Times represent the future of news reporting and they plan to incorporate livestream technologies like Periscope and Meerkat into their reporting more than traditional multimedia sources like Getty or the AP.

The report says that the big story in the study is one of disruption, and the big question: Is your media relations programming changing fast enough to meet the needs of today’s 24/7 media?

This survey identifies the profile of today’s media in order to best understand who represents the news creators and distributors. The results contain insights from editors, reporters, writers, columnists, and bloggers, many of whom have been in the industry for more than 20 years and actively use corporate news as the basis for articles and posts. (Charts found at end of ResearchBrief)

One of the biggest changes in the last decade has been the rise of new technologies and their impact upon news creation, delivery and consumption. For media outlets, the biggest shift continues to be the movement of readership from print to web, and now mobile devices. This shift provides limitless opportunities for reporters to reach and engage readers throughout the day via fresh content and via quickly adopted formats such as livestream video, but with this shift comes a need for faster content creation, resulting in faster turnaround time, says the report.

Type Of Medium Primarily Reporting
Medium % Of Respondents
Radio 3.7%
Television 1.8%
Newspaper 17.7%
Website 36.3%
Magazine 24.7%
Blog 6.5%
Other 9.3%
 Source:Business Wire, October 2015

The primary internal metrics used to evaluate the success of a reporter’s story, says the report, include the number of page views (59.1%) and unique visits (46.5%) to the story, as well as social media activity such as likes, tweets, sharing and emailing (48.8%) and comments l (19.5%) on the individual article.

Print, Phone, Pad News Delivery OptionsWhen it comes to how journalists prefer to receive breaking news, email alerts (66.5%) and newswire delivered press releases (20.9%) are still the most desired methods. Only 3.7% prefer to use social media platforms as a resource for receiving breaking news stories, while text messages and telephone calls (total 2.8%) are the least favored.

Preferred Method For Receiving Breaking News From An Organization
Preferred Receipt % of Respondents
Email alert with link to full press release 66.5%
Other 5.6%
Social media posting 3.7%
Newswire press release 20.9%
Telephone call 2.3%
Text message .5%
Company blog post .5%
 Source:Business Wire, October 2015

Social Media Channels As Microphone IdentifyiersThe role of social media platforms is changing to be more oriented toward news discovery and sharing as well as providing additional content and information for today’s reporters. 74.9% of respondents use social media platforms for work-related research, however, 74% said they prefer not to receive story pitches via social media platforms.

34.5% of Asia-Pacific respondents, and 50% of South American media are more likely to receive pitches through Facebook than any other social channels, finds the study. However, 50% of reporters in these regions prefer not to be pitched through any social channels.

The survey results showcase the specific news topics a reporter needs to not only consider writing about your news, but to also produce a strong piece of editorial coverage. The most sought-after type of press release information reporters want from an organization is:

  • Breaking news (75.3%)
  • Followed by interesting story angles (72.1%)
  • Supporting facts (68.8%)
  • Trending industry topics (56.7%)
  • Quotable sources (50.7%)
  • Company background information (51.2%)

Content Element Platfomrs Audio, Video, TextToday’s most compelling news articles include a good headline and an interesting and relevant story, augmented by intriguing multimedia. In this survey, we asked reporters how likely they would be to use a company-issued news release if it included multimedia elements.

36.3% of responding reporters said they would be likely to use a news release if it included multimedia. The element most preferred is a photograph (82.8%), then:

  • Graphics (48.4%)
  • Video files (38.1%)
  • Infographics (35.8%)
  • Logos (27.4%)

When news is being consumed so rapidly and abundantly, the role of newswires in journalism remains vital in the news creation space, says the report.

A majority of media respondents (84.7%) use commercial newswire services to find and augment their news coverage, with 53.5% referring to newswires daily or several times a day. When asked what newswire they relied on the most, 67.4% of respondents chose Business Wire as their most utilized commercial newswire resource for researching an organization.

Frequency Using Newswire Service
Frequency Used % of Respondents
Several times/day 23.7%
Several times/week 10.7%
Monthly 1.9%
Occasionally 9.3%
I don’t use a newswire 15.3%
Weekly 6%
Several times/month 3.3%
Daily 29.8%
 Source:Business Wire, October 2015

The survey also aimed to identify what steps communicators could take to support the journalists covering their stories. The most requested step asks communication professionals to spend more time researching the journalist’s publication/beat before reaching out to them (57.2%). Sharing their articles via social platforms followed at 39.5%.

What PR Professionals Could Do To Support Your Role Better? (Select all that apply)
Support Material % of Respondents
Do more research on my publication/beat before reaching out 57.2%
Socially share your article out to their audiences 39.5%
Be more responsive 38.6%
Provide more story-related assets 35.3%
Be available to speak upon request 34.9%
Provide company fact sheets 25.6%
Other (please specify) 20.5%
Write better stories1 8.6%
 Source:Business Wire, October 2015  

Quality Content Check Box Marked By Green PencilGlobally, the top concern for today’s media outlets is the increased focus on inbound traffic vs. story quality. With this move, it becomes even more vital for today’s communicators to create and implement a coverage amplification program to help reporters meet these metrics.

Biggest Concerns Relating To Today’s Media Environment? (Select All That Apply)
Focus % of Respondents
Quality content 66.5%
Increased reliance on “robot” journalism 47.0%
Increased presence of advertorials 44.7%
Reduction in reporting staffing 43.3%
Reduced time available for research 36.3%
Outsourcing of work previously handled by reporters & editors 33.5%
Publication shuttng down 32.1%
Increased usage of company branded content 31.2%
Increased speed in story publishing 29.3%
 Source:Business Wire, October 2015

Curved Wall of Video ScreensThe use of video technology in the future of news reporting is highlighted even by the media’s response to what future reporting tools they plan to use to supplement coverage. 50.7% noted livestreaming video apps and 51.6% plan to rely on photo services for multimedia creation or discovery, says the report.

While these results show that journalists continue to embrace established forms of news story telling, there is a dominant shift occurring towards newer methods found primarily on digital platforms.

Modern news consumers are diverse in their choice of where to engage with news, and in their choice of formats – visuals, textual, videos, interactive platforms – so creating content that resonates with audiences across multiple platforms is the best practice for maximizing message visibility. 36.7% of respondents noted they are currently learning new multimedia technologies emerging in the news coverage space, with 23.3% already using interactive photos and video to supplement their stories.

In a surprising twist, says the report, across the globe responders chose BuzzFeed, known for short, entertainment-styled content and news, over more traditional long-form media outlets such as The New York Times as the publication that best represented the future of reporting.

Media Outlet Best Representing The Perceived Future Of Media
Media Outlet % of Respondents
CNN TV + web crossover 10.2%
New York Times: traditonal top tier news sources 27.9%
Buzzfeed: interactive news telling 33.5%
Reddit: consumer driven news telling1 2.6%
Yahoo! News: search engine hosted news 15.8%
 Source:Business Wire, October 2015

Wood Block Letters Spell Once Upon A TimeAfter search engine use (97.2%), an organization’s corporate site (88.8%) and online newsroom (76.7%) are the foremost destinations for journalists when they need to research an organization. This “News,” “Media,” or “Press” section of an organization’s website is used regularly for editorial research as are:

  • Social media networks (49.3%),
  • Spokespersons (43.3%)
  • Blogs (38.1%)
  • The press release boilerplate (35.8%)
  • Trade publications (36.3%)
  • And wikipedia (40.9%)

Again this year, press releases (84.7%) remain the most sought-after content type within a company’s online newsroom, with:

  • Breaking news (83.7%) and
    • Media contact information (76.3%) close behind.
  • High resolution images (71.6%)
  • Fact sheets (66%)
  • Press kits (58.6%)
  • Executive biographies (51.6%)…

…round out the top required pieces of content journalists look for when crafting news coverage.

Online NewsroomsMore than 75% of surveyed media are receptive to seeing brand articles within an online newsroom. When asked what type of stories should be found in the online newsroom, 39.1% responded that they’d like to see industry trends, as well as content about products and services (26.5%), events (20.9%) and financial information (20.5%).

The functionality behind an online newsroom is just as important as providing required content types. Journalists expect to be able to search content within an online newsroom by type and or date (60.9%).

The ability to download and re-use content (55.3%) such as video and image files is far more desired by media than simply offering an embeded code (24.2%). And the ability to register for email alerts specific to their news interest is important to 60% of those surveyed.

The report concludes by reminding readers that the purpose of the 2015 Business Wire Media Survey is to provide communicators and media professionals insights into the latest trends in news coverage to provide a roadmap for communicators to create and present better, more effective news packages, allowing not only for the faster processing of quality content, but content that meets reporter metrics as well.


Most Closely Resembles Title
Title % of Respondents
Blogger 6.0%
Other 7.4%
Reporter/writer 13.5%
Editor/editorial staff5 2.1%
Producer 1.9%
On-air talent 1.4%
News director 4.2%
Freelance journalist 11.2%
Correspondent/columnist 2.3%
Years As A Member Of The Media
21 years > 45.1%
16-20 years 18.1%
11-15 years 8.8%
6-10 years 14.4%
2-5 years 13%
1 year 0.5%
 Source:Business Wire, October 2015  


Primary Industry Beat  
Beat % of Respondents
Technology 10.2%
Energy/utilities 6.5%
Entertainment 5.6%
Automotive/transportation 4.2%
Finance 3.7%
Sports/recreation 3.3%
Healthcare 2.8%
Food/beverage 2.3%
Retail 2.3%
Agriculture 1.9%
City/metro 1.9%
Real estate 1.9%
Travel/hospitality 1.9%
Architecture 1.4%
Arts/culture 1.4%
Environment 1.4%
Government/politics 1.4%
Science 1.4%
Other (please specify) 27.0%
 Source:Business Wire, October 2015  

For additional information, please visit Business Wire here.



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11 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Getting Media Coverage

A basic understanding of the process and where the story goes are keys to getting media coverage. Making it easy, engaging and effective for media professionals to work with you is often an after thought. A thought after thinking all about you and your product instead of how you want the media to think about it.

11 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Getting Media Coverage


Getting the media to cover your story and products can be a game-changer, but dealing with the media isn’t quite like anything else marketers do. How can you not only get their attention, but convince the media your story is worth covering? Here are 11 tips to increase your odds of making the right kind of news.

1. Be Prepared
Don’t start reaching out to the media until your campaign is ready to go. Have a website that you are proud of and clearly represents your story. Have sample inventory (if applicable), clean photographs (preferably shot on a white background) and a digital media kit that includes product information, images, bios and company info. Everything else can follow with time, but before you even think about picking up the phone to call a journalist, have all of these ready to go when they ask!


2. Define Your Message
Chances are you’ve developed a good bit of literature and collateral for the project. Be sure that the way you are promoting it to the media is consistent with the rest of the message. Nothing is more confusing to consumers than getting mixed messages—all touch points should look and feel the same.


3. Know Who Your Spokesperson Will Be
Are you camera shy? Do you freeze on interviews or fumble with words? One person should be the go-to for all interviews/quotes. Decide who that person will be and make sure they’re always available. Be sure they are well versed in all of the messaging you are trying to convey.


4. Drop Everything When the Phone Rings
If a reporter calls you, you need to call them back within hours—minutes if possible. The same goes for an email. Do not expect a journalist to sit around and wait for your call back. They are always on urgent deadlines, and if you don’t call back immediately, they will find someone else (probably a competitor) who will. Fulfill all information and interview requests within 48 hours as a general rule of thumb.

5. Don’t Ever Try to Sell the Media
You aren’t trying to get the media to BUY your promotion, you simply want to inform them about why it’s better or different than what’s already out there. Avoid flashy sales-like buzzwords and stick to the facts. If your product/service is that exceptional, they’ll be able to see that based on the information alone.

6. Be Timely and Relevant
The launch of a new product or campaign is always newsworthy when it’s about to happen. But eight months after the launch, it’s old news. Be creative to keep your campaign relevant and constantly come out with new ideas or ways to grab the media’s attention.


7. Know Who You’re Pitching
The best thing you can do is familiarize yourself with the publications or TV programs you are trying to pitch. Journalists are only going to cover topics that are relevant to their content. Be smart about whom you are pitching and what you are pitching! If they’re not covering your competitors, chances are they’re probably not going to cover you either.


8. Quality, Not Quantity
Where are your customers hanging out? What magazines are they reading? What TV shows are they watching? Make a Top 20 list and pitch each one differently, targeted to their readership/viewership. What good are 5,000 media placements if no one you’re trying to reach is reading those magazines?


9. Know How to Pitch a Journalist
If you can’t sum up what you’re trying to say in three or four sentences, you are definitely going to lose interest. Reporters barely make it past your first sentence. If you are lucky and they’re still interested, they will read on. But do not pitch a three-page expose about your client, their history, family, future plans, etc. Keep it short and to the point. If you get a bite, the reporter will definitely ask for more information.


10. Press Releases
Press releases are great for providing the meat of the story. They should include the key figures, spokespeople and who/what/when/where/why. Do not use press releases to blind copy 500 reporters on an email that starts, “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.”


11. Follow Up
This is probably the most important thing to do, and also the one item that needs to be handled most carefully. Journalists are getting hundreds of emails every day. Chances are yours may have slipped through the cracks. Don’t call 20 minutes after you send the email and ask, “Did you get my email?” It’s okay to send a follow up email if you haven’t heard back within a week of sending the initial email. After that, you can probably assume they’re not interested.

Taryn Scher  is “The Sparkle Boss” at Greenville, S.C.-based boutique public relations firm TK PR.Opens in a new window Reach her at taryn@tkpublicrelations.com.


5 Tips to Bring New Life to Your Social Profiles


social media how toWhen was the last time you updated your social media profiles?


Are they starting to feel drab or dated?


Your social profiles may be in dire need of a refresh!


And are you sharing the types of updates tailored to the latest platform designs and suited for today’s social media marketing?


With recent changes to major platforms, you may be missing out on using some of the cool new options.


To freshen up your social media profiles and take advantage of the latest updates, implement any of the following five ideas.


#1: Optimize Your Google+ Profile for the Platform’s New Design


Google+ social profiles were recently redesigned. This represents a great opportunity to freshen up your Google+ profile and review your Google+ content strategy!


new google plus design

The new Google+ design features 1, 2 or 3 columns of content, depending on the device being used.




Here are a few tweaks you can make to spice up your new Google+ profile.


Add a new high-resolution cover image. The current Google+ design standards require an image that’s at least 480×270 pixels. However, since these images can be blown up for much larger display sizes in some browsers, this is a great opportunity to update your profile with a new high-resolution photo.


Add larger media to the items you post. Some picture and video “cards” (Google-speak for the individual items that appear in the stream) display across multiple columns, giving users greater exposure to them. While visitors can’t control which items appear wider than others, you can increase your odds of having your content featured by changing the size of the images and videos you share to be at least 480×270 pixels.


Here’s an example from HubSpot:


full width google plus

This image demonstrates what a full-width card looks like in the new Google+.


Add images to every post. The new Google+ design is all about visual content, so give Google what it wants by adding pictures or video files to every update you post. Visuals are a great way to make your profile appear more lively and engaging.


You’ll be taking advantage of the new features available with the new Google+ design and your profile will stand out above the others.


#2: Add Media to Your LinkedIn Profile


In December of last year, LinkedIn started rolling out the ability to add photos, videos and other types of rich media to profiles. But few eligible users are currently taking advantage of this opportunity!


If you’re serious about adding punch to both your personal and professional social profiles, adding media to your LinkedIn profile is an easy way to do it.


To see if you have access to these features, log into your profile and click the pencil icon found in the Edit Profile area of your Summary, Expertise and Experience sections. If you see a small icon labeled “Add Media,” you’ll be able to add rich media to create a freshened up professional profile on LinkedIn.


linkedin feature

Note – LinkedIn is still rolling out this feature. If you don’t have access yet, be patient!


You’ll want to add some relevant rich media elements to your LinkedIn profile to look good and stand out.


#3: Add a Header Graphic to Your Twitter Feed


Twitter profile headers have been available for quite a while, though the large number of plain grey rectangles still evident on user profiles indicates that this feature hasn’t yet been widely adopted.


To give your Twitter profile a quick graphic boost, create a custom header that communicates your personality or your brand’s messaging. Here’s an example of a fun header graphic.


coca cola twitter header

Coca Cola’s Twitter header combines images and popular brand iconography.


If you’d like to create your own Twitter header to freshen up your profile, check out the free Twitter Header Creator tool.


Make sure you’re Twitter profile page looks good and add an engaging header image.


#4: Upgrade to the “New Look” on Pinterest


Social media users have noted that Google+’s latest redesign makes it look more like Pinterest. And Pinterest has moved forward with its own redesign. Its new design features simplified navigation, larger “pins” and enhanced social sharing tools – elements that are bound to please users.


What’s interesting, though, is that instead of rolling out the new look to all users, it’s currently offered on an opt-in basis. To gain access to these features, you’ll need to click the Get it Now button that appears at the top of your profile upon login.


pinterest get it now button

To view Pinterest’s new look, click the red Get it Now button that appears upon login.


Because updating only changes the way your profile looks to you, why bother taking this step, and how does it allow you to freshen up your own profile?


What’s special about the site’s redesign is how easy it makes the discovery of new Pinterest boards and pinners. By upgrading to the new look, you’ll be able to form new connections and source even more interesting pins, making your own profile a more interesting resource for your followers.


You’ll want to update your Pinterest experience by adopting the new design.


#5: Use Twitter Vines to Bring New Life to Your Account


One final way to freshen up your social profiles is to introduce Vine videos to your Twitter feed.


Vine videos are quick, looping videos that consist of six seconds maximum of video and audio content. As an example, take the popular “Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal” Vine – a recent viral success:


vine video of ryan gosling

This popular Vine shows how effective six seconds of film can be in connecting with your audience.


Making Vine videos doesn’t require much time or money, as six seconds isn’t nearly enough time to develop a complex storyline or plot.


Create your own Vine video as a fast and easy way to freshen up your Twitter feed and engage your audience with visual content.


Your Turn


Use these five creative ways to make your social profiles more appealing today. Social interaction will continue to evolve around your social profiles, so remember to keep an eye open for the next design changes and new ways to share engaging content.


What do you think? Can you think of any other ways to freshen up a boring, out-of-date social profile? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments below!


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About the Author, Eric Siu

Eric Siu is an entrepreneur and internet marketer based in Los Angeles. He co-runs Storemapper, a store locator widget for e-commerce stores and other businesses. Other posts by

Time To Revaluate Your Website

Denny Hatch had a great article on actionable steps I can immediately and easily implement. This is a huge gift for anyone who don’t know what they need to  know about creating a rewarding user web experience of your online presence.

I am finally putting to bed a new book, “WRITE EVERYTHING RIGHT!” It has taught me one key lesson:

If text is not easy to read, people won’t read it.

This is especially true on the Internet, where we are all one mouse-click away from oblivion.

P.R.: An Industry Creating Truly Poor Web Communications
This column was triggered when I started putting together a plan for the public relations, promotion and publicity of “WRITE EVERYTHING RIGHT!”

Which of the four major press release distribution servicesOpens in a new window would give me the biggest bang for my buck?

Annual revenue: $5MM+
No. of employees: 100+
Distribution points: 1,200+
No. of clients: 20,000+

Annual revenue: $5MM+
No. of employees: 100+
Distribution points: ±4,700
No. of clients: 8,000

Annual revenue: $5MM+
No. of employees: 26-50
Distribution points: ±1,0000
No. of clients: 1,000+

Annual revenue: $5MM+
No. of employees: 100+
Distribution points: ±1,0000
No. of clients: 30,000+

My conclusion: No matter how compelling and relevant your press release, it will be unreadable when handled by any of these services.

Online Readability: The Optimal Line Length
I had an exchange with Christian Holst of the Baymard InstituteOpens in a new window in Copenhagen. Here are the nuts-‘n’-bolts of making it easiest for the online reader:

“Having the right amount of characters on each line is key to the
readability of your text. It shouldn’t merely be your design that dictates
the width of your text, it should also be a matter of legibility.

“The optimal line length for your body text is considered to be 50-60
characters per line, including spaces (“Typographie”, E. Ruder). Other
Opens in a new window suggest that up to 75 characters is acceptable. So what’s the
downside of violating this range?

“Too long — if a line of text is too long the visitor’s eye will have a hard
time focusing on the text. This is because the length makes it difficult to
get an idea of where the line starts and ends. Furthermore it can be
difficult to continue from the correct line in large blocks of text.

“Too short — if a line is too short the eye will have to travel back too
often, breaking the reader’s rhythm. Too short lines also tend to stress
people, making them begin on the next line before finishing the current
one (hence skipping potentially important words).

“It turns out that the subconscious mind is energized when jumping to the
next line (as long as it doesn’t happen too frequently). At the beginning
of every new line the reader is focused, but this focus gradually wears off
over the duration of the line (“Typographie”, E. Ruder).

“In order to avoid the drawbacks of too long and too short lines,
but still energize your readers and keep them engaged, we
suggest keeping it within the range of 50-75 characters per line.
—Christian Holst, Baymard InstituteOpens in a new window 

N.B. The six paragraphs above by Christian Holst follow his rules about line widths. All are a comfortable 75 characters including spaces.

The text you are reading now has a width in the range of 105 characters.

Compare how easy it is to read Christian Holst above vs. the difficulty in reading Denny Hatch here.
Vertical vs. Horizontal
The problem: A sheet of stationary, a book or a magazine is a vertical format. As readers, we are used to vertical documents. Our eyes are comfortable with text up to 75 characters wide.

The computer screen you are looking at is horizontal. When lines of type sprawl all the way across this horizontal screen they can be double—and more—the maximum comfort-level width of 75 characters.

Thus the text is beyond easy comprehension. It is unreadable.

Sadly, the industry totally dependent on easy reading—public relations and publicity—is a total failure.

Examples are shown in the media player at upper right, or click on the hyperlinks below to see the actual documents:

BusinessWire press releaseOpens in a new window: 184 characters wide.

MarketWire press release:Opens in a new window 140 characters wide.

PRWeb press release:Opens in a new window 128 characters wide.

PRNewswire press release:Opens in a new window 128 characters wide.

PRNewswire press release above as redistributed by The Wall Street JournalOpens in a new window:Opens in a new window 133 characters wide.

The Purpose of a Press Release
Bill Stoller, proprietor of publiscityinsider.com defines a press release as:Opens in a new window

… a pseudo-news story, written in third person that seeks to demonstrate to an editor or reporter the newsworthiness of a particular person, event, service or product.

To put it bluntly, a press release is a paid pitch just like an advertisement. Only it is designed to look like a news item rather than an ad.

To guarantee readership, the output of P.R. practitioners (flaks) must slavishly follow the dictum of the great 20th century newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane:

“Good writing has to be easier to read than to skip.”

If good writing is junked up with know-nothing design, it is easier to skip than to read.

The Background of Unreadable Websites
The dot-com boom of the mid-1990s was huge. Many thousands of young, inexperienced designers with no training and no experience were hired by a legion of young, inexperienced entrepreneurs.

In terms of reading, I suggest few of these hotshots ever got beyond “Peter Rabbit” and “Johnny Crow’s Garden.”

They are not readers. In their skewed minds they were hired to make things look pretty.

Website design is about them, not about the reader.

“The Internet is a new medium, a new paradigm,” we geezers were told. “Your old rules no longer apply. This is a world of new rules, and we make ’em.”

Those who did the hiring were too young to have been mentored by knowledgeable professionals. So the kids they hired were allowed to run wild.

After the crash of 2000—where trillions of dollars evaporated—many of these smug, full-of-themselves amateur designers lost their jobs and returned home to live with their parents.

Unfortunately, their deeply flawed ideas became the norm. Ask a Web designer why a site looks the way it does, the answer will be: “This is how it’s done.”

Ask a Web designer why type is in unreadable pastel hues or faint gray and the response is the same: “That’s the fashion today.”

A Simple Way to Make Press Releases Readable
Take a moment to look at the five examples cited above. Two of them—BusinessWire and Marketwire—are designed with lines of type splayed out across the full screen.

PRWeb and PRNewswire start off with the top parts being readable widths because of sidebars and illustrations in the right hand columns.

In the newspaper world, the top area is described as “above the fold.”  Traditionally, this is where newspaper make-up people work hard to catch the reader’s eye.

Once the Web designer runs out of this extraneous stuff at the top of a press release, all that remains below is a lot of white space. Designers abhor white space.

So they fill it with type.

Ergo, a nasty reading experience has been created.

The solution: use wide margins. Set the copy at the preferred maximum width of 75 characters for ease of reading.

Don’t worry about a lot of white space.

After all, we’re not talking about the cost of paper. This is the digital world. White space is free.

The reader needs care and feeding—not the white space.

Size Matters
I back up my desktop computer once a week onto an external drive. I then transfer all the week’s updates to my laptop.

If I have to travel somewhere, my laptop instantly becomes the main computer.

“Type smaller than 9-point is difficult for most people to read,” David Ogivly wrote.

On my laptop, these sprawling press releases are turned into mouse-type—the equivalent of 7-point type.

I don’t have time for this idiocy.

Takeaways to Consider

  • If text is not easy to read, people won’t read it.
  • “In order to avoid the drawbacks of too long and too short lines, but still energize your readers and keep them engaged, we suggest keeping it within the range of 50-75 characters per line.” —Christian Holst, Baymard Institute
  •  “Good writing has to be easier to read than to skip.” —Arthur Brisbane
  • If good writing is junked up with know-nothing design, it is easier to skip than to read.
  • In the digital world, we are all a mouse-click from oblivion.
  • Take a moment to look at your website. Is the text readable? Did your designer follow the rules?
  • If not, maybe you should fix it.
  • And hire a designer who understands word is king, while design and art are supportive elements.
  •  “God protect us from amateurs!” —Henry Castor

Healthy Is As Healthy Does

By Graham Mills Friday, Oct. 12, 2012

Healthy Is As Healthy Does

It is possible to draw parallels between the green movement and what is happening in health today. Both are human problems that have grown to be global crises through our actions and inactions. Both have their advocates and their nay-sayers. Both ask all of us to take personal responsibility for doing everything we can to fix the problem. And, perhaps most importantly in this context, both have a huge impact on brands and how they are expected to behave. Today, people want the brands that they buy or associate with to demonstrate that they share the same standards and beliefs. And it is much more than a product story.

Subaru, a car brand cherished by outdoor types, created the first auto assembly plant in the U.S. to achieve zero-landfill status. Rather than invent another greener car, it showed that its corporation stands for, and is prepared to invest in, protecting the environment. This is a great demonstration of what Jon Iwata, senior vice president, Marketing and Communications at IBM, calls “corporate character.” And understanding that how you act as a company creates brand relevance, which is much more valuable than simply buying awareness.

Proof of Character

People are looking for similar character from health brands. Some car manufacturers talk about passive and active safety. Passive safety covers the features that protect you if you get in an accident, while active safety is everything designed to stop you getting into an accident. Health brands could adopt this thinking to create experiences that encompass passive and active health — helping people when they are sick and helping them stay well.

A successful example of doing both is the “Get on Track” program. Novartis created it as part of the organization’s commitment to helping people with hypertension — regardless of which drug they are taking. When you have high blood pressure, your doctor tells you to change your diet, start exercising and take your medicine. And guess what? You get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Get on Track used the thinking behind economic nudge theory to change this. The program creates lots of tiny healthy nudges that add up to a real difference — not just for the patient, but also for Novartis’ character.

Being active means thinking different. In an effort to find the thousands of new bone marrow donors needed every year, every packet of “Help, I’ve Cut Myself” adhesive bandages now contains a swab and an envelope. Send a drop of blood to the bone marrow donor center, and it’ll tell you if you’re a match. A brand that is relevant when you have cut yourself is now a lifesaver.

Another brand embracing active health is EmblemHealth. The new “This is What Care Feels Like” campaign has created a healthy network for New York: Connecting green markets and restaurants in live street demos, sponsoring fruit carts, partnering with master chefs to create cooking competitions for teens, and airing television commercials that give out health advice and tips. Yes, helping people to stay healthy benefits a health insurance company. But it also benefits us and makes that brand relevant to everyone who cares about his or her health.

Renewable Marketing Energy

When we create work that is as relevant as this, we are creating more than an advertising campaign. We are creating brand experiences that people can believe in, get involved with and share. Get it right and, just like renewable energy, we are harnessing a momentum that will power brands forward further and faster than ever before.

Post your response to the public Marketing: Health blog.

See what others are saying on the Marketing: Health blog.

Graham Mills is executive director of Digitas Health.

LinkedIn Company Page Tips for Agency, Corporate PR Pros

Excellent tips from Bill Miltenberg, of PR News. I thought the one about asking all employees to start a company page was up at the top.

By Bill Miltenberg, PR News

On Sept. 6, LinkedIn rolled out its new “Company Pages,” giving companies the opportunity to be more creative and present more content. Since potential clients, customers and employees are checking out your company page, it’s worth your while to make it as attractive, informative and interesting as you can. Now that we’ve had time to digest these changes , it’s time to take the next step and implement some best practices.

Lana Khavinson, LinkedIn’s senior product marketing manager, has the following tips for PR pros on the agency and corporate sides:

If you’re a PR professional working for a firm:

    1. Encourage all of your clients to create a LinkedIn Company Page and provide them with links to media hits about their company, so they can share those media wins with their followers through status update posts. LinkedIn’s own Company Page is a good example to check out, as are the company pages for PhilipsCitiHP and Dell.
    2. If your clients already have a LinkedIn Company Page, make sure they have added a powerful image to welcome people to their page and that they are posting status updates on a daily basis to ensure that they are reaching their entire follower base. An example of a company doing just this is HubSpot.
    3. Teach your clients the best practices of posting: Post in the morning for best reach, add links when possible, share videos to drive viral engagement and tell people what action you want them to take on your post (like, share, comment).
    4. And of course, make sure your PR firm has a stellar LinkedIn Company Page by make your own daily posts and adding a Products & Services tab so potential clients know what offerings you have.

If you’re corporate PR pro:

    1. Make sure that you take ownership of your LinkedIn Company Page as a channel for external communication.
    2. If your social media manager or HR team owns the page, ask to become an administrator of the page so you can post press releases, blog links, news announcements, articles about the company and events that you want to direct followers to.
    3. Encourage employees to like, share, and comment on posts. Employees are 70% more likely to engage with your post, thereby helping you spread your message across LinkedIn.
    4. Mix it up. Post unique content that your company has developed or share industry stories that you think your followers will find interesting.
    5. Lastly—test, test, test. Time of day, tone of message, content type, etc. can all have different effects. Use your LinkedIn Company Page engagement metrics to determine what works best for your company.

LinkedIn is the most-used social network by journalists, making it a media relations playground—92% are on LinkedIn—but PR pros better have their own company’s bases covered before they attempt to connect with media.

Practical Tips for PR Professionals: Marketing Via Twitter

From BurrellsLuce

As the media landscape becomes increasing competitive, PR and communications professionals must up their social game. These five tips will help you leverage Twitter for your marketing and communications efforts:

1. Identify casual followers vs. power users. Tools, such as Twitalyzer, are designed to help you learn who to follow and who has the most community influence based on who you’ve identified as being relevant and aligned with your target audiences.

2. Understand trending topics. Consider implementing timed tweets or paying to promote your account. Twitter offers advertisers the ability to promote their products, tweets, trends, and accounts via paid engagement. Promoted accounts see more visibility and come up at the top of Twitter searches and follower timelines.

3. Leverage employee profiles with branding. Twitter now offers websites the ability to incorporate a “follow” widget directly on the company’s site, streamlining the traditional “connect with us” process on Twitter. This widget can also be implemented on the bios of employees who blog on behalf of your company, brand or client so you are further connecting employee brand ambassador activity with your organization.

4. Strengthen your SEO efforts. The new Twitter search allows you to not only see the standard tweets, but also returns videos and pictures in the results. Newer browsers, such as Firefox with Twitter, offer the ability for users to type a hashtag or username in the address bar and find the results for that particular page.

5. Tie activities back to business goals and objectives. Always remember why your organization is engaging in Twitter. Free analytics only give you a portion of the picture. BurrellesLuce Social Media Monitoring (Engage121) allows you to create custom charts and graphs illustrating both quantitative and qualitative metrics, as well transcripts and charts of your favorite Twitter chats.

BottomLine: Build one-to-one relationships. BurrellesLuce Social Media Monitoring (Engage121) not only offers you the ability to build and manage your communities of interest; it also integrates traditional media with social media, allowing you to follow bylined journalists of traditional publications in one location. Connect with relevant journalist and bloggers via Twitter directly from your print and web coverage and create individual, custom social media campaigns—all in one place.