Friday, October 7, 2016

Is there still a place for longer-form journalism in our digital world?

By: Scott Stein, Leonard & Finco Public Relations 

There’s no doubt the news landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. I grew up with a daily newspaper, ABC, CBS and NBC television stations running local news at 6 and 10 p.m. and a few local radio stations that also carried local news. That’s a far cry from today when news is with us 24/7 from a seemingly endless source of news outlets.

So I found a recent post from Pew Research – 10 facts about the changing digital news landscape – to be rather interesting. I won’t list all 10 facts; but here are a few:

  • About four-in-ten Americans now often get news online
  • Mobile is becoming a preferred device for digital news
  • Social media, particularly Facebook, is now a common news source
  • Long-form journalism has a place in today’s mobile-centric society

My first thought was that the four-in-ten figure for people getting news online seems a bit low. As for mobile being the preferred device for digital news or that Facebook and other social media platforms are common news sources, that’s no surprise.

The surprise to me is that “long-form journalism has a place in today’s mobile-centric society.” The Pew Research piece notes that “cellphone users spend more time on average with long-form news articles than with short form. In fact, the total engaged time with articles 1,000 words or longer averages about twice that of the engaged time with short-form stories: 123 seconds compared to 57. And on average, long-form content attracts about the same number of visitors as short-form content.” 

I’m taking that as good news; people are still interested in longer stories even it seems that most of us have shorter attention spans today.

What do you think? Are you checking out longer-form stories on your mobile device?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Anybody hone their PR skills while watching the debate?

By: Cole Buergi, Leonard & Finco Public Relations
I’m a political junky and watched the first presidential debate from start to finish.

I didn’t take political sides but, instead, I viewed the debate from the perspective of a PR professional, examining each candidate’s responses to questions and thinking out loud (much to the dismay of my wife) what they could have said differently, better, or, in some cases, say nothing at all.

It was hard not to critique because, in my profession, we often work with our clients to prepare them for public speaking. 

This preparation covers all aspects of public speaking including what to wear, what mannerisms to display and how to appropriately respond to questions. Most importantly, we train speakers on how to deflect questions that may be inappropriate by using bridging techniques that get them back to their key messages.

Throughout the debate, I noted the missed opportunities by both candidates to reinforce key messages and pointed out times when the candidates should have used a bridging technique. For certain, I was commenting a lot throughout the debate.

Do other PR professionals do this during debates? What other events / activities do you find yourself evaluating responses to things from a PR perspective?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How a closing college proves social media can’t be an afterthought during crises

By: Noelle Cutler, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

When “all hell breaks loose” at an organization, employees are left scrambling to pick up the pieces. In the midst of chaos, social media may be tossed aside. It can be an afterthought, an extraneous side project they no longer have time for. But wait…don’t these organizations realize that crisis-mode is the most important time to be using social media? Don’t they realize that it’s the one time when the public is most interested in what they have to say? Don’t they realize that this is the worst time for there to be radio silence? 

For ITT Technical Institute, the answer to all of these questions is a big fat no. The for-profit college chain was forced to abruptly close its doors in recent weeks after the Department of Education cut its funding, leaving 40,000 students and 8,000 employees in the lurch.

All of the 130 campuses were closed immediately, in turn closing the door on current students’ plans for graduation. Despite promises of loan forgiveness, students are understandably angry. As one might expect, these angry students have taken to social media to voice their complaints. While ITT did issue a news release about the situation, not a single social media post has been made about the situation. 

Instead, most recent posts on their Facebook and Twitter pages thank high school students for visiting their campus and encourage followers to sign up for fall classes. Looking at those posts now, all you’ll find is one berating comment after another, mocking the clear irrelevance of these posts. Hundreds of rational comments are being left with no response. Beyond just angry students, ITT’s closing has become a national story. By now, no doubt thousands of people are visiting their social media pages and leaving with a very unpleasant taste in their mouth.

Now the point in this isn’t just to say, “ITT did a really bad job at social media. The end.” This is actually a unique crisis situation in that the people who were probably running the social media pages no longer have their jobs, and the social media pages represent an organization that no longer exists. So we can’t really blame ITT for such a dismal social media response. But we can look at this and learn some lessons. 

ITT’s social media pages are still active…and have become a “permanent” holding area for people to express their frustrations…and hear nothing back. See how poorly that reflects on this now defunct organization? Let this be a lesson: in times of crisis, the worst thing you can do is let complaints pile up on social media without acknowledgment or explanation, especially in this channel where your audience is obviously listening. Social media is your VOICE to your public. So use it.