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Introduce self The brief I have for you today is discuss online writing and how to write for an online audience. But I do want to say that in the online medium, more than any other medium, writing is just one tool - and to effective use the medium as a pr professional it must be part of an overall strategy
Writing is important so are the other key characteristics of interactivity and multimedia - ie more than words But given the limited time today I will focus on writing and interactivity and just brush on multimedia.
• As you would have noted in week one’s tutorial exercise, journalistic blogs are different online news stories. • They share many of the same features in terms of written expression, linking, multimedia use etc, but they are different. • Blogging is more personal, it is an opportunity for a journalist to interpret or analyse a news event from their point of view. • In this way, blogs are similar columns and editorials. • However, they differ from these older forms of journalism as their style is even more conversational. • And other key benefit of blogging is the ability for a circular conversation between journalist and reader to evolve.
There are roughly four categories of blogs in the blogshphere. Personal blogs, which were the genesis of all blogs are like personal diaries. Journalist blogs are blogs written by journalists who are generally working for a publication that also creates non-blogging content. Corporate blogs are run by organisations to communicate with their publics – these are important for PR practitioners (we’ll discuss these next year). And then there are citizen journalist blogs, which is what we’ll focus on today.
US academic Jay Rosen and his students recently studied the online news media to answer the question: what makes a good journalistic blog? • Their research identified seven factors that can make or break a blog. I’ve bastardised their findings and added a few of my own ideas to create the following list. Not every blog needs all of these ingredients, however the inclusion of just a few can make a big difference to page views. • Post regularly – Add blog posts frequently; ideally they should be updated at least with the frequency of the publication. Readers are rarely impressed by a latest blog post that’s a few weeks old. • Use the medium – Think about how the blog can take advantage of its medium in terms of multimedia and linking. Include categories, archives, social networking links and an RSS feed (definition: a syndication tool which tells people when a blog has been updated and provides an easy to read post summaries). • Pay attention to design – Readers do judge on first impressions; add photos to break up the text, include subheads and bullet points if it’s a longer post and make ensure the design is not overly busy.
Write conversationally – The most popular blogs are those that have a personal edge; bring your own experiences into the story if relevant, have a point of view but be careful not to get into rant territory. Write conversationally and always, always think about your audience. • Encourage comments – What’s the point of a blog with disabled comments? However, if readers don’t choose post comments, your blog isn’t necessarily a disaster. It’s the number of hits that matters. • Stay focused – Does the blog have a focus? Does the writer explain what they are out to achieve so new users can quickly grasp if the blog is for them or not? To this end, make sure your blog has a point of difference. • Verify facts and links – Make sure links come from a reliable source or your credibility will be damaged.
Here are a couple of emerging trends that are worth considering: • Many blogging journalists are posting the raw material of stories-in-progress and asking readers for expert input. • Other journalists are using blogs to show the background of a story. For example, posting a transcript of interviews with an accompanying background analysis. • In terms of comments, audience participation can give journalists ideas for new stories. • Comments containing constructive feedback can help journalists improve their writing skills. • And in terms of the art of writing, it’s worth remembering the more you write the better you get at it.
• Hand out the assessment criteria and discuss.
Here is just one definition of a phenomenon that is quite hard to pin down. This description, from PR2.0 guru Brian Solis, is broad in its scope; no doubt it is broad by design in order to suggest the breadth of possibilities evoked by social media. Let’s go into some more detail…
Here are some examples.
Social media marks a shift away from traditional media forms. With traditional media, such as TV, newspapers, radio etc, journalists and media proprietors did collecting and filtering of information. This information was then ‘pushed’ to publics. With social media, both traditional media outlets and members of the audience can publish anything they please. This information is then filtered by the audience. In other words, information is ‘pulled’ to them.
Another thing to note, social media is often mistakenly seen as a grass roots affair. Big media players are also big new media players.
What does all this mean for practitioners. In a nutshell, professional communicators of all breeds need to realise that communication is no longer all about broadcasting, it now often a conversation in which publics talk back.
It can help us better understand our publics.
Some communications messages are better suited to social media release than others. For example, last week’s guest lecturer John Elder mentioned that he had received social media released largely on arts and entertainment topics, probably because arts and entertainment lends itself to the addition of multimedia and social media content.
Here is an example of a social media release that would be sent through as an email. A short sharp story, relevant video links, click-through audio links and related social media options. A list of links is also included. This has the potential to be a valuable resource for a journalist or social media generator.
It’s important to understand that some blogs have more influence than others. Often these can be determined by examining blog analytics. This is something we’ll go into detail about next year. But here are some links for those people who are interested in the topic.
How do we then interact and write for such an influential communciators Immerse yourself in relevant areas of the blogsphere.
Some are, other’s aren’t.
You may well be out-ed by fellow bloggers who start following your comments.
They mightn’t know what an embargo is or, how an exclusive works.
The Twit-pitch is the process of keeping a message under 160 words, a la Twitter. By the way, many journalists are open to be contact by Twitter.
You don’t have to be formally journalistic in your writing. Reflect their style without going over-the-top.
To bring together the importance of the writing, the interactivity and an understanding of the the culture of the web - lets look at an example of where is all went horribly wrong.
Pr Writing Online Writing and social media
PR writing and practice Online writing and social media
<ul><li>The key to understanding the internet and communicating within it is to understand its culture: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>> The circular conversation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>> We must focus on the ICC </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>>Interactivity </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>>Conversation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>>Community </li></ul></ul></ul>
Writing for the web > Reading online is typically 25% slower than print > Web users don’t generally like to scroll – keep it short > ABC (accuracy, brevity, clarity) still applies but is intensified > Check for spelling mistakes, they can damage reputation > Use simple, direct language > Use active voice where you can > Minimise the use of adjectives and adverbs > Go for short paragraphs, ideally no longer than five lines of text > Allow the reader to branch off to other more detailed content
Keeping readers interested > Include bullet points and lists > Use bold subheads, especially if copy exceeds 300 words > Use pull quotes > Include multi-media elements, e.g. slide shows and audio/video, and imagery > Don’t assume your audience understands abbreviations and jargon > Avoid ‘click here’, instead use a more interesting anchor words
Blogs are conversational and encourage reader involvement
Writing for blogs > Personal blogs > Journalist blogs > Corporate blogs > Citizen journalist blogs
Blogging best practice <ul><li>Post regularly </li></ul><ul><li>Use the medium </li></ul><ul><li>Pay attention to design </li></ul>
Blogging best practice <ul><li>Write conversationally </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage comments </li></ul><ul><li>Stay focused </li></ul><ul><li>Verify facts </li></ul>
Writing an opinion blog <ul><li>Grab your reader’s attention from the first par </li></ul><ul><li>Back up your opinion with facts </li></ul><ul><li>Answer the alternative debate </li></ul><ul><li>Link, link, link </li></ul>
Blogging trends <ul><li>Asking for input </li></ul><ul><li>Providing background </li></ul><ul><li>Learning from feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Presenting your key messages without a gatekeeper </li></ul>
Getting noticed in the blogsphere <ul><li>There’s not much point maintaining a blog if no-one reads it. </li></ul><ul><li>• Here are some tips for getting noticed. </li></ul><ul><li>• Blog regularly as search engines have the potential to list every post – the more you write the more chance there is to get noticed. </li></ul><ul><li>• Key words matter, pay attention to headlines. </li></ul><ul><li>• Get on the blogroll of a blog with a similar audience. Mumberella or Subbed Out </li></ul><ul><li>• Get involved in the blogsphere; comment on other blogs and include your blog address in your entry. </li></ul><ul><li>• But most importantly, the key to bogging success is to be readable, be factual and be different… if you do a good job, readers will keep coming back. </li></ul>
What is social media? “ Social media is anything that uses the Internet to facilitate conversations between people.” Solis, B. in Breakenridge, D. (2008) PR 2.0 , Pearson, New Jersey, p. xvii
What is social media? > User generated content > Sometimes called participatory media or Web 2.0 > Is created with easy to use publishing tools > Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, Second Life, Flickr, delicious, forums
The rise of social media Traditional media landscape Filter then publish (information is pushed to publics) Social media landscape Publish then filter (publics pull information to them)
The rise of social media <ul><li>> Traditional media is not dead, but its dominance is declining </li></ul><ul><li>> Media channels and audiences are becoming more fragmented </li></ul><ul><li>> If a media channel has an audience, it should matter to a practitioner </li></ul><ul><li>Old media players are often major new media players </li></ul>
What does social media mean for practitioners? “ It forces PR to stop broadcasting and start connecting. Monologue has given way to dialogue.” Solis, B. in Breakenridge, D. (2008) PR 2.0 , Pearson, New Jersey, p. xvii.
What does social media mean for practitioners? Social media is an opportunity > To speak directly to publics without a gatekeeper, e.g. Facebook groups > To engage highly specialised third-party spokespeople, e.g. bloggers > To achieve a greater understanding of publics through monitoring, e.g. Qantas Twitter
Social media releases <ul><li>> Developed as response to the rise of social media </li></ul><ul><li>> It is just one way to communicate with social media users </li></ul><ul><li>> There is no one-size-fits all approach to a social media release </li></ul><ul><li>Suited to arts and entertainment, technology, wine, food, fashion, lifestyle messages </li></ul>
Blogger relations: Not all blogs are created equal Some bloggers have more influence than others. Tools that can help you analyse the power of a blog include: > www.technorati.com > www.google.com/analytics > www.blogsearch.google.com > www.blogs.com
Blogger relations > Do your research Follow bloggers that are relevant to your client or you employer to understand their focus and interests.
Blogger relations > Be part of the conversation Build trust by adding your comments to blog posts.
Blogger relations > Test the water Find out whether a blogger is open to being pitched to.
Blogger relations > Be up front Be transparent about who you are working for; don’t go ‘undercover’ as a fan or follower.
Blogger relations > Traditional media relations processes often don’t translate Don’t send an unsolicited media release to a blogger, and remember many aren’t trained as traditional journalists (they won’t follow the rules).
Blogger relations > Be credible Introduce yourself before you start pitching, let them know you’ve been following them, and give bloggers an opportunity to opt-out of your communications.
Blogger relations > Brevity rules Stick to the Twit-pitch – keep pitches and messages as brief where you can.
Blogger relations > Talk the talk Tailor your writing to their style, be more conversational. Tips adapted from: McClure, J “Blogger relations”, Campaign Brief , November 2008
A lesson the hard way… > Saab - greenwashing > The response by a Saab media professions within the social media realm - showed what not to do