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Wieck Australasia goes to CAS 2011

Our omniscient leader Warren Kirby will be sitting in on a panel at CAS 2011. Hear what he has to say about "Thriving in a Networked World: New Tools and Tried-and-Tested Rules for Media Relations", Thursday 26th May www.casummit.com.au

Wieck Built Online Newsroom Proves to be World-Beater

October 13, 2011

DALLAS, Texas – Two Baylor Health Care System sites built and managed by Wieck Media are winners in the 2011 Digital PR Awards presented by PR News. The wins came in the Online Newsroom category and the best organizational Blog.

The Online Newsroom bested other finalists that included Cisco Systems Inc., and Intel & Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. They, along with Fahlgren Mortine with Crown Equipment, received honorable mentions.

Read more…

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A Legal View of Online Newsrooms

February 3, 2012

Every now and then you stumble across something that completely changes your perception of the world. And so it was last night when I read a post on the Stem Law Firm Web Strategy Blog.

A blog post titled “How to fix your law firm’s Media page” is quite possibly the best, most succinct article I’ve ever read on how to utilise an online newsroom  – and it was written by Jordan Furlong — a LAWYER!

This isn’t the standard list of content types, like images, video or search function. It’s  packed with ideas and concepts that aren’t always obvious. Most of the points suggest stepping back to ensure you see both the forest and the trees.

It’s definitely worth a read but for those that don’t have time:

  1. Points of Contact – this isn’t just a single point of contact, it’s a list of people with a specific area of expertise to both provide the correct job title but also to help the media avoid wasting time. The warning note is that each person must be reliably responsive.
  2. The Business Side – “Not every reporter’s inquiry involves law-related issues — increasingly, especially in the legal press, stories involve the business side of practice.” Now replace law-related with “my industry-related” and see how that resonates…
  3. The Firm’s Media Resources – “What if reporters were clients?” Now think about that for a minute. If journalists were clients they’d what to know what you can give them. OK your newsroom might have plenty of images and video but can you provide something unique on request? Can you organise key personnel for interivews?
  4. A Series of Primers – “Not to paint with too broad a brush, but the level of legal literacy in the mainstream press is not terribly high. Consider creating a series of primers on your Media page that explain basic legal concepts on issues that appear regularly in the press.” Again, replace ‘legal’ with ‘my industry’ and you get the idea.

And finally Furlong finishes with “There’s an old expression: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” I think something similar could be said about the press: even if you don’t want to talk to them, it’s quite likely they want to talk with you, and they may have good reason.”

Check it out – http://www.stemlegal.com/strategyblog/2010/how-to-fix-your-law-firms-media-page/

How Would You React if Someone Starting Doing Your PR Strategies for You?

December 7, 2011

Corporate Reputation is becoming more and more important with the advent of social media.

Companies around the globe are doing a lot of navel gazing trying to come up with strategies to enhance and protect their reputation within the community. Millions are being spent on developing social media strategies to ensure they don’t become the next BP or United Airlines or Qantas.

Corporate Social Responsibiity is seen as one of the ways an organisation can demonstrate to their customers and the wider community that they care. After all, if an organisation is pumping millions into research for kids with cancer, they would be producing products in a sweatshop somewhere in SE Asia, right?

With this in mind, here’s an old but a goody from “The Yes Men“. The Yes Men are a couple of pranksters that have forged a career by highlighting some of the more questionable practices of big business and thePR tactics they’ve employed to gloss over some of their less than admirable affairs.

The year was 2004, back in a time before Facebook was everywhere, before Twitter existed and well before one wrong move could cause a media firestorm that engulfed a corporate reputation within hours. The Yes Men set up website called DowEthics.com to highlight the 20th Anniversary of the worst industrial disaster in history, the Bhopal tragedy.

On December 3, 1984, Union Carbide’s poorly-maintained Bhopal plant released a cloud of toxic gas that killed 5000 people. Over the next twenty years, an estimated 15,000 more have died from the toxicity, which Union Carbide never cleaned up, abandoning the site shortly after the accident. Because of the accident, an estimated 120,000 Bhopalis require—but, for the most part, do not receive—lifelong medical care. Union Carbide was acquired by Dow Chemicals in 2001. Dow has repeatedly denied responsibility or liability for the Bhopal disaster despite Union Carbide being a wholly owned subsidiary.

BBC World Television sent an email to DowEthics.com asking if Dow would like to make a comment about the Bhopal incident to mark the 20th anniversary. The Yes Men decided they should take up the offer and do a little pro-bono PR work for Dow.

Mr. Jude (patron saint of the impossible) Finisterra (earth’s end) becomes Dow’s official spokesperson. Jude announces a radical new direction for the company.

He is ecstatic to make the announcement: Dow will accept full responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, and has a $12 billion dollar plan to compensate the victims and remediate the site. (Dow will raise the $12 billion by liquidating Union Carbide, which cost them that much to acquire.) Also, to provide a sense of closure to the victims, Dow will push for the extradition of Warren Anderson, former Union Carbide CEO, to India, which he fled following his arrest 20 years ago on multiple homicide charges.

Pause here for a moment and consider how you, as a PR, would respond if a ‘company representative’ announced on BBC World Television that the company had committed $12,000,000 to an initiative you didn’t know about and that was the complete opposite policy of the company. Then imagine finding out it was complete false.

Just to rub a little salt in the wound, The Yes Men decide they should also help Dow send out a press release that is a formal retraction of the BBC interview.

To be perfectly clear:

  • The Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) will NOT be liquidated. (The fake “Dow plan” called for the dissolution and sale of Dow’s fully owned subsidiary, estimated at US$12 billion, to fund compensation and remediation in Bhopal.)
  • Dow will NOT commit ANY funds to compensate and treat 120,000 Bhopal residents who require lifelong care. The Bhopal victims have ALREADY been compensated; many received about US$500 several years ago, which in India can cover a full year of medical care.
  • Dow will NOT remediate (clean up) the Bhopal plant site. We do understand that UCC abandoned thousands of tons of toxic chemicals on the site, and that these still contaminate the groundwater which area residents drink. Dow estimates that the Indian government’s recent proposal to commission a study to consider the possibility of proper remediation at some point in the future is fully sufficient.
  • Dow does NOT urge the US to extradite former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson to India, where he has been wanted for 20 years on multiple homicide charges.
  • Dow will NOT release proprietary information on the leaked gases, nor the results of studies commissioned by UCC and never released.
  • Dow will NOT fund research on the safety of Dow endocrine disruptors (ECDs) considered to have long-term negative effects.
  • Dow DOES agree that “One can’t assign a dollar value to doing what’s morally right,” as hoaxter Finisterra said. That is why Dow acknowledged and resolved many of Union Carbide’s liabilities in the US immediately after acquiring the company in 2001.

Most importantly of all:

  • Dow shareholders will see NO losses, because Dow’s policy towards Bhopal HAS NOT CHANGED. Much as we at Dow may care, as human beings, about the victims of the Bhopal catastrophe, we must reiterate that Dow’s sole and unique responsibility is to its shareholders, and Dow CANNOT do anything that goes against its bottom line unless forced to by law.

How do you think this scenario would have played out in 2011?

What happens when Aggregation becomes Automation?

November 21, 2011

Aggregation has long been identified as both a benefit and a curse on media publishers the world over.

New media powerhouses like The Huffington Post have mastered and fine-tuned not just aggregation, but also social media, comments from readers, and most of all, a sense of what its public wants. In the process, Huffington has helped media companies, new and old, understand the appeal of aggregation: its ability to give prominence to otherwise unheard voices and to bring together and serve intensely engaged audiences, as well its minimal costs compared to what’s incurred in the traditionally laborious task of gathering original content.

Huffington often says that aggregation benefits original-content producers as much as it does the aggregators. When sites promote each others’ content, they create more engaged audiences through additional page views and commentary.

News organisations have always blended material from a variety of sources by combining editorial content from staff, news services, and freelancers; adding advertising; and then distributing the package to consumers. In the digital world, news aggregation is not so different.

There are two basic models for aggregation. The cheapest way to aggregate news is through code and algorithms, with little or no human intervention – think Google News or Yahoo News. On the other end of the spectrum, publications like Huffington Post starts with algorithmic selections but puts them into the hands of human editors who set priorities for sections and then condense, rewrite or bring several organisations’ versions of the same story together.

But what happens when aggregation turns into automation? A third model is emerging where the content itself is created with software, then aggregated and published.

Take a moment to read Robbie Allen’s “How I automated my writing career”.

In November of 2010, his company, Automated Insights, launched the StatSheet Network, a collection of 345 websites (one for every Division-I NCAA Basketball team) that are fully automated.

It’s easy to dismiss this example as ‘that’s just regurgitation of stats, of course that can be automated’ and you’d be right – to a point.

Here’s an excerpt from a fully automated article on one of their sites:

“The Tar Heels got to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team after falling to Duke, 75-58, in the ACC tournament. In making the Elite Eight, North Carolina defeated 15th-seeded Long Island, 102-87 in the second round, seventh-seeded Washington, 86-83 in the third round, and then 11th-seeded Marquette, 81-63 in the Sweet Sixteen.

North Carolina was led by Tyler Zeller, who had 21 points on 75% shooting. The Tar Heels also got 18 points from Harrison Barnes, 11 from Dexter Strickland, and seven from Kendall Marshall.

Kentucky was on fire from beyond the arc, scoring 36 points in three-pointers to get an edge.

The Wildcats got their top scoring out of a game high from Brandon Knight with 22 points and seven rebounds. DeAndre Liggins (12), Josh Harrellson (12), Terrence Jones (11), and Darius Miller (11) all hit double figures.”

If that isn’t enough to send a shiver down your spine, consider this; machine-created content will never be worse, or more expensive to produce, than it is today. It will only get better, cheaper and more accessible to both legitimate publishers attempting to make their workflow more efficient, content farms who can finally do away completely with the human element and to spammers.

And it’s the latter who are most likely to push the boundaries faster more than anyone. In the never ending war to fool a tiny percentage of Internet users into helping out a poor Nigerian lottery winner, the algorithms used by spammers need to be more complex and more “human”.

As Allen helpfully points out:

  • Software doesn’t get writer’s block, and it can work around the clock.
  • Software can’t unionize or file class-action lawsuits because we don’t pay enough (like many of the content farms have had to deal with).
  • Software doesn’t get bored and start wondering how to automate itself.
  • Software can be reprogrammed, refactored and improved — continuously.
  • Software can benefit from the input of multiple people. This is unlike traditional writing, which tends to be a solitary event (+1 if you count the editor).
  • Perhaps most importantly, software can access and analyze significantly more data than what a single person (or even a group of people) can do on their own.

The slide down this slippery slop has already begun; and not just with websites.

Check out this video about Soylent, a plug-in for Microsoft Word. It’ll shorten down text to fit a specified length and offers a few options. It’ll  proofread and correct grammatical errors. It allows the author to do wholesale changes to a document like “Change this to past tense”.

There’s no doubt the current technology can be a valuable tool for media outlets, after all it’s only suited to quantitative and data-driven work. This allows journalists to focus on (cough) qualitative commentary however this is the crucial point.

Journalists must establish their personal, human, stamp on the work they produce. Regurgitating press releases and re-hashing statistics won’t cut it. Anything suitable for automation – which is a lot – will be picked up by newsrooms the world over as managers and publishers scramble to try and reduce overheads.

And then that boundary will shift. And shift again, and slowly the room of writers becomes a room of servers with a couple of database admins, and one or two sub-editors just checking through a cursory selection of articles.

Writers whose unique style engages readers and builds a dedicated following are the ones best placed to fight off this new threat to the established traditions of news media.

For the record, in the interest of self-preservation, I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

The basics for Creating the Ultimate Online Newsroom

November 15, 2011

“The best online newsrooms combine rich content with careful organization and search capabilities; they enable PR pros to provide reporters, analysts, and bloggers with a vast amount of information without overwhelming them.”

That is a quote from Maria Verven, a PR and content marketing executive with KC Associates, a Minneapolis-based b2b technology PR and marketing agency.

At Wieck, we’re always banging on about the importance of an online newsroom, so it’s heartening for us to see someone WITHOUT a vested interest in promoting them echo the arguments we often make.

There are many more reasons why an online newsroom is a necessary tool for any organisation however this list is an excellent start. It provides a ‘back-to-basics’ overview of some of the things journalists need that are so easily overlooked when you are intimately involved in a company or industry.

Maria Verven’s list includes:

  • Media Contacts
  • Links to news releases
  • Links to media coverage
  • Company backgrounder
  • FAQs
  • Management Team Bios and photos
  • Story Ideas
  • Upcoming Events
  • Links to company generated content
  • RSS feeds
  • Downloadable JPG images in hi-res
  • Links to company social media profiles
  • Search friendly URL

Verven also points out

“All of the content should be search optimized, with the ability to limit the search to just information within the newsroom section of the site.”

and

“All newsroom content should be easily sharable using social media buttons for the most popular sites and networks.”

The full article can be viewed at http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/8636.aspx

81% of Journalists Turn to Company Websites – Is Your Online Newsroom Ready?

November 12, 2011

Source: 2011 Arketi Web Watch Media Survey

A survey by Arketi Group has found that 81% of business journalists turn to corporate websites when they are unable to find a source.

And what makes the website useful when they get there?

Aside from the basics of contact information and search capabilities, providing reproduction multimedia assets is proving to be of significant importance.

At Wieck, we provide our clients with the capability to deliver all of these resources with our online newsrooms.

The opportunities for PR professionals don’t stop there; 80% say they rely on PR contacts, 77% on press releases and 71% on email alerts.

The survey also seems to suggest that traditional media is shifting the way that it delivers the news with 36% of the journalists saying that 75% of their news outlet’s website is original content that doesn’t appear in the print publication. This underlines the need for PRs to recognise the changing requirements of traditional media and respond accordingly.

The days of sending out a press release without multimedia assets are gone. In the world of modern media, PRs must provide downloadable reproduction quality images and broadcast video on their online newsrooms, or risk losing 81% of their opportunities.

Google’s Freshness Update brings News, PR and SEO together

November 11, 2011

A little over a week ago Google implemented a change that could provide great opportunities for both the media and PR industries and that’s made online newsrooms more important than ever.

They’ve implemented a significant improvement to its ranking algorithm, that’s designed to deliver the most up-to-date results.

The idea is that even if you don’t specify it in your search, you probably want search results that are relevant and recent.

Google has recognised that the fast pace at which information moves in today’s world, the most recent information can be from the last week, day or even minute, so a result from a week ago about breaking news is too old.

The advantages for news media are obvious, do a Google search for something and not only do you get results on a topic, you get the latest news on that topic first.

For PR’s it means having an effective online presence is now more important than ever and the keystone of that presence should be an online newsroom.

An online newsroom that is SEO optimised and delivers the media the most up-to-date content gives you the best chance of getting your news ranked.

As Lisa Buyer wrote in a blog titled “Pitching to Google’s Fresh New Algorithm via News, Blogs, Events & Google+“:

“When was the last time you checked out your online newsroom? Or do you even have an online newsroom? Journalists expect it, customers and prospects learn from it and Google now digs it even more!

A company’s online newsroom can be an excellent source that delivers fresh news content to Google – and this couldn’t be a better time to give your online newsroom an audit. An organized and optimized online newsroom is feeding Google that content freshness and frequency the search engine is now rewarding.”

Communicators that publish quality company news that is relative, consistent, and frequent on their online newsroom are bound to rise above the noise.

PR Directions Wrap Up

November 11, 2011

We were proudly involved in PRIA’s annual conference, PR Directions, as a Gold Sponsor. Aside from the opportunity to display our credentials as providers of online newsrooms, we  had the opportunity to gain an insight into the latest trends in PR by some of the sharpest minds in the business.

The two stand-outs were Social Media Superstar, Brian Solis and former Senior Press Secretary to PM Kevin Rudd, Lachlan Harris.

Brian Solis introduced delegates to the concept of ‘the connected consumer’.

The connected consumer is connected on social networks by interest rather than friends or relatives. They are across all demographics and they are part of ‘the lazy web’. Connected consumers don’t want to search for information, they want it delivered to them. Because they are connected vi interest, they ask their feeds “what movie should I go and see?” and wait for a response.

To get through to the connected consumer, businesses must think about the audience with an audience of an audience. In short, influencers.

PRs wanting to engage in social media but are getting resistance from senior executives need to tie business priorities and objectives to the engagement and demonstrate how it will enable progress. When asked to provide ROI for social media, the “R” is often left unarticulated but it’s vital to define exactly what the desired return is. It may be as simple as monetary return however it may be brand recognition or establishing your expertise.

The “ART” of social media is:

  • Actions
  • Reactions
  • Transactions

A viral video on YouTube is an action, not a reaction or a transaction and an action is the weakest of the three.

In defining the R of ROI define “I want to ____ something”. Get that right and your Action will be focused to the Transaction and the Reaction will sort itself out.

Lachlan Harris’ speech offered his opinion on the changing news cycle. Interestingly the concept of the 24hr news cycle was hardly mentioned, rather the interplay between the news cycle and the opinion cycle.

The news cycle and the opinion cycle are intertwined but different. The opinion cycle is slowly smothering the news cycle like a vine taking over it’s host.

Every year the number of journalists goes down (news) and the amount of commentators (opinion) goes up.

Harris pointed out that opinions are a seductive option for media outlets on a number of fronts.

Opinion is much cheaper to produce than news. Opinion doesn’t require a team of people (with expenses) verifying the facts, it simply needs someone with a voice and it is often provided freely.

Opinions can’t be disproven because they are opinions. Opinions is also driven by debate and argument. If you can find someone with an opinion, you can find someone with an alternate one and this type of argument increases ratings on television and reader interest in publications.

The negative side to this is that it causes a downward spiral in all areas of society, particularly in politics. When policy is driven by opinion, not facts, the only outcome is shallow, populist initiatives that ultimately result in poor outcomes.

Here’s a few of the best blog posts from the conference:

Overview

http://www.globalalliancepr.org/website/news/pr-directions-points-way-ahead-australia

Brian Solis

http://www.sefiani.com.au/blog/our-job-is-to-connect-with-influencers-offline-and-online/

http://prwarrior.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/10/brian-solis-on-brand-journalism-and-the-connected-consumer.html

http://prwarrior.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/11/my-video-interview-with-brian-solis-at-pr-directions-2011.html

Panel Discussion – “Pulling a Rabbit out of a Hat – Learning Tricks for Not-For-Profit

http://www.porternovelli.com.au/newsroom/blog/?tag=pria

Lachlan Harris

http://prwarrior.typepad.com/my_weblog/2011/10/the-rise-rise-and-rise-of-the-opinion-cycle.html

http://mumbrella.com.au/opinion-cycle-lachlan-harris-andrew-bolt-pr-62272