Archive for the ‘How we work’ Category

Our publicity campaign success rate

We’ve completed an analysis of the success rate of our publicity campaigns over the last 12 months.

Metric Result
Delivered %
(delivered to target contact)
Read %
(confirmed read by target contact)
Target Outlet Conversion %
(coverage achieved in target outlet)
Campaign Conversion %
(coverage achieved for campaign)

Delivered. Every press release has reached the chosen media contact. We research our contacts carefully for each campaign and keep our database up to date – it’s part of our cost base, and because of it we expect a 100 per cent delivery rate.

Read Delivering a press release to the correct email address is a good start, but only the start. In practice, it’s another matter altogether for the press release to be read and understood. For our targeted lists, we pay a lot of attention to making sure the release gets to the right person. Sometimes the person who receives the release – despite our research – isn’t the best person (or is away). In these cases, we find during our follow-up that the person we talk to can advise us of the correct person. This year, 100 per cent of our press releases were read by an appropriate person. We can measure this because we personally follow up every contact by phone and email.

Target Outlet Conversion. When we run a campaign, we help the client identify the specific media outlets where coverage is sought. We send press releases to the list and follow up. If editorial coverage follows, we consider that a conversion.

We measure results from two separate lists – our primary target list (i.e. usually around eight carefully chosen contacts) and then a short supplementary list. The supplementary list includes those media outlets considered, but that don’t make the short list. As we always have an email address, we send the release to the supplementary email addresses anyway, but do not follow up personally.

The majority of editorials and broadcasts (25%) resulted from the targeted lists, but some (7%) also came from the supplementary lists. We have found that a targeted contact was almost two and a half times as likely to run a story than a contact on the supplementary list. I’ll repeat that, as it is important: a personal follow-up increases editorial coverage conversion rates by approximately 250%. As the supplementary list comes from quite a selective set of outlets already, the impact of follow-up – when compared to a non-targeted bulk email list – is likely to be a lot higher.

The benefit of personal follow-up is to be expected for two reasons:

  1. Relevance: The targeted lists focus on the media we believe are most likely to run the story.
  2. Attention: We follow up all contacts on the targeted list. A personal call helps increase the chance that the potential story angle has at least been considered.

Campaign Conversion. A campaign consists of a press release being delivered to a primary and supplementary list of contacts at the target media outlets. We assess a campaign as having converted if we get editorial coverage from at least one of the target media outlets. During the financial year, 83 per cent of our campaigns resulted in media coverage.

Our median result is two editorial placements or broadcasts per campaign; almost half (44%) of our campaigns achieved this. I would love to know how that stacks up from an industry perspective, but I’m not aware of many PR agencies or publicists who make these kinds of metrics available.

We did have campaigns with no coverage – 17% to be precise. I will write that again … no coverage. Ouch, that really hurts when it happens. Try as we do, editorial coverage in premium media (and this is very distinct from advertorial) can never be guaranteed. The unpredictable nature of the media means anything can happen at any time. For example, we had a great editorial story (pictorial and all) pulled at the very last minute because of a text message sent by Shane Warne.

We do look at each campaign that is struggling to get traction and try to identify the cause. The strength of the angle is critical, and (given the the vagaries of our free press) is the number one way we can influence outcomes. We plan angles carefully up front, doing what we can to try identify angles that have relevance for the audience of the target outlet. On a number of occasions we have discussed potential story angles with a prospective client, only to recommend they not proceed; if the angle doesn’t have a reasonable prospect of success with the chosen media outlets, then it’s not in anyone’s interests to run a campaign.

While we did have campaigns with zero coverage, we also had outstanding successes. Our best campaign achieved no less than nine editorial placements, gaining coverage in 35 per cent of the target outlets.

A key advantage for this story was the perceived lack of commercial content. Some publications and channels will baulk at running a story that they view as promotional (and on a few occasions even try and create an opportunity for their advertising department). But they will happily promote a non-profit venture, even if the ultimate result is profit for someone. It’s all part of the equation.

We will continue to measure the results of our publicity campaigns, and keep you updated.

Working with the media: How to talk to them, and when not to

We spend a lot of time following up press releases with the media, and we’re always conscious of how difficult and daunting this can be for a small business operator.

Here are some tips:
• When you call your contact, make sure you have a good reason for doing so: checking that the press release got to the right person PLUS offering high-resolution images, inviting them to your event, offering them samples etc.
• Don’t ask if your press release will be used. This is a conversation that wastes their time.
• Respond quickly and efficiently to requests for images or further information. I have seen other PR agents lose important editorial because their clients were too slow to respond.
• If the message you receive is equivalent to “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”, then respect that and mark that contact as one that needs no follow-up in future. We have a few contacts who run stories without any follow-up from us, and prefer to do it that way.
• Research online news-sites carefully. Some accept press releases, others draw their news from their sister print publications. Many professionally based and government sites will only print news about non-profit enterprises. So don’t waste your time chasing contacts that can’t deliver.
• Be willing to give something away to readers or viewers – samples, or a prize for a competition, or an e-book. This will encourage outlets that can’t publicise a commercial enterprise but can offer a free service or resource to their audience.
• Ask for advice. Most people love to be asked for their expert advice or opinion, so if you’re struggling to get traction with a media message, contact one of your sources and ask for their advice on where and how to pitch your story. This brings them to your attention in a positive way and can bring out in them a desire to help you.
• Offer yourself as a contact for input in your niche area. By establishing yourself as a reliable source of authoritative information, you will increase your chance of getting your media messages picked up. But make sure you can deliver what you offer.
• Above all, focus on giving the media what they want. If they want you to go away, then go away – it doesn’t mean they haven’t noticed you or your story. If they say they’re not interested in your story, they may be willing to discuss alternative angles, so have a few suggestions up your sleeve that are directly relevant to the publication or channel.

Sound marketing advice for tourism operators

Tourism Australia’s latest round of research has led to a profile of the travellers most receptive to – and most likely to book – Australian travel experiences.

Described as ‘experience seekers’, what’s really interesting is Tourism Australia’s advice to tourism operators on how to communicate with them when marketing the experiences they offer.

In its recently released Australian Experiences Industry Toolkit, Tourism Australia explains that “copy should be conversational in tone …, addressing the reader directly as you would in a conversation”.

The tone “should be informal, relaxed and not too polished”.

They talk about telling stories that “highlight ‘authentic’ and unique experiences”, and teaching something new about the destination.

They advise tourism operators to “share local secrets that only Australians would know… and offer an insider’s knowledge on travelling to and within Australia”.

This is an excellent description of the kind of communication that’s going on right now online, via email, blogs and social media sites – the perfect media for direct, conversational and authentic communication with lots of opportunities to share inside knowledge, expertise and news.

Tourism operators are increasingly using online media to market directly to their audience, as travellers increasingly search online when they are planning and booking their holidays.

Tourism Australia’s own research (published Feb 2007) shows that over 70% of international tourists to Australia researched and booked their holidays online in 2006. And the figure for domestic tourists is over 50%.

This is why we’ve developed services specifically for tourism operators to publicise and market online more effectively – and capture the huge proportion of those ‘experience seekers’ searching the web.

You’re never too small for an online newsroom

Have you ever visited a corporate website and been impressed by all the head-spinning self-praise? Something that always helps raise a profile is having a media page on the site – also known as online newsrooms. This is the place to store:

  • press releases relating to the company with links to the releases themselves and relevant images available for download
  • links to media coverage achieved
  • a press pack with essential information on your business for journalists, including contact details and images

There’s a much more important reason for this than just growing your head bigger. Having press releases and news about you on your website also enhances your online presence, keeps the news available over an indefinite period, and increases the chance of both journalists and potential clients finding information that interests them.

For example, Google News works by trawling sites looking for news content, and press releases are a likely target. Journalists also search online when preparing articles or looking for stories to fill space. And the additional content provides more search terms to capture potential clients browsing the net.

So – far from being a corporate spin – an online newsroom makes sense for any business, however small. And if you don’t have any press releases to upload, you need to start preparing your first one now. We recommend distributing one press release every three to four months.

PR Influences has some useful advice about online newsrooms. Although aimed at larger businesses, a simplified version of what they recommend is certainly worth considering. And David Meerman Scott makes the point that a newsrooms are no longer the territory of journalists only, so prepare your content with your potential customers in mind.

Take a look at our Client Press Releases page, which lists and links to all our clients’ releases and sites. This is not only good for our clients but showcases what we do and provides a service for journalists searching for stories. Next I will be creating a page documenting media coverage of PublicityShip itself.

A very simple structure for online newsrooms that any small business can follow entails:

  • a page linking to each release about your business,
  • probably one page of images for download, although you can place specific images at the foot of each release,
  • a page showing media coverage received,
  • if you have a media or press pack – an online version in your newsroom.

And make sure your contact details are easy to click.

Of course it helps to be working with a self-managed site so that you can upload each press release and series of images quickly and without the cost of a web administrator. Our platform allows for this, thanks to OM4 – our online marketing business, which will be officially launched shortly.

Publicity Teleclass

After running a publicity campaign for the Australian Business Coaching Club, director Greg Chapman asked me to participate in a Publicity Teleclass for club members interested in finding out how small businesses can get media attention.

Click here to download and listen.

The domino effect of online news

Seen yourself in the local paper lately? Feel good? Before you sit back and bask in your fame, check whether the story is also appearing online. Otherwise your content won’t go much further than the paper’s immediate readership.

This might be enough for a micro-business servicing a tight local area, but in our experience, most businesses – whatever their size – can benefit from reaching a much wider audience.

We always submit our press releases to online news sites and post them on our own site to attract online searchers and browsers. There are both dedicated news sites such as and and specialist sites with news sections.

Many print publications have an online version and feed into one another, while broadcast news is becoming challenged by user-generated sites like YouTube – something you have to take seriously if your target audience is within the Y generation.

Getting your content onto these sites will help to bring you higher up in the search rankings more often, and there’s the domino effect that doesn’t come from traditional media so quickly.

For example, as one of the most respected news sites for the travel industry, eTravel Blackboard content gets picked up by numerous other travel sites, spreading news around the industry and the travel community at large. And this can happen very fast.

Two of our Hidden Jewel winners now have their press releases on this site (Anangu Waai! and Bookabee Tours), and it will be interesting to watch the domino effect in action.

So if you’re after the domino effect and your local newspaper doesn’t have an online component, consider a different media outlet next time, and look at specialist news sites too.

Don’t be spam

David Meerman Scott writes about PR agencies and spam:

PR people need to stop shotgun-blasting news releases and blind pitches to hundreds (or even thousands) of journalists at a time—without giving any thought to what each reporter actually covers—just because the media databases make it so darn simple to do.

Now I like David’s post, it explains why why we go about press release distribution the way we do.

It suggests maybe there are three actual tests your press release has to pass if you are going to send it out via email. The first test is to pass the anti-junk-mail filters. And then it has to pass the relevance test (or to rework Google a bit, ‘don’t be spam’). Finally, your news item has to pass the hardest test of all. Being newsworthy.

Simple really.

Four reasons our clients are getting publicity

Our four most recent clients have all achieved some excellent coverage, so I thought it might be helpful to pinpoint the reasons for their success.

First up is Melbourne Fashion Experience – a small operation that fills a gap in the top-end fashion market. Proprietors, April Duck and Deborah Boreckyi, have created personalised tours of Melbourne’s tucked-away designer outlets for busy women wanting a top quality shopping trip. The designers themselves are highly supportive of the tours, and will arrange to be on hand whenever a tour is coming through.

Coverage in Shop Til You Drop with a full feature in Melbourne Weekly Magazine were achieved thanks to the unusual and appealing character of the tours. Not only do they offer unique experience, but the visual appeal is strong, making for a more compelling feature-style story.

AllGayCruises proved more of a challenge, with plenty of interest in gay and lesbian publications, but a tentative response from mainstream media, which was the central target for this campaign. Despite having all the elements of a great story – the first gay cruise in Australia, lots of colourful events on board, and plenty of visual appeal – we had our work cut out following the initial press release distribution.

But after umpteen phone calls and hours spent on working up angles, we finally cracked the Sunday Age, and the story was also picked up by travel industry media. In this case, success was largely due to newsworthiness and persistence.

Third, something completely different – business coach Greg Chapman recently launched the Australian Business Coaching Club, an online tool for small and remote businesses to gain access to top-quality business coaching at low cost. As another Australian first, Greg’s story was news, but needed something more than a straight announcement.

So PublicityShip worked with Greg to come up with a ‘business school of the air’ angle. This was picked up by the Daily Telegraph in Sydney and Herald Sun in Melbourne, who ran features in their small business sections.

And finally, the Supertalent Network asked us to publicise this year’s Australian Dance Idol competition for 5-19-year-olds, running this week in Sydney.

Thanks again to newsworthiness and fabulous visual appeal – who can beat children dancing? – the competition was showcased on Channel Nine’s Mornings with Kerri-Anne on Easter Monday, and has raised interest among local media for coverage of the finals.

To sum up – our clients’ success comes from:
1. being newsworthy,
2. having visual impact,
3. finding an appealing angle, and
4. sheer persistence.

You don’t necessarily need all four elements, but the more you have, the more likely you are to get publicity.

Distributing press releases with a personal touch

We’ve been operating our publicity services for just on a year now. When we started, we figured we would be different to many of the public relations companies because we use journalists to develop the angle and write the press release.

But we’ve also developed a distinctive style in another area, and that is press release distribution.

Our main distribution approach for Australian media is very personal. Rather than develop a large media list and use email to send it out widely, we encourage our clients to focus on a small number of specific target media. Six, to be precise (although we can cover as many as required). Our distribution approach involves personal checking for the most appropriate and up to date contact at each of the print/broadcast media outlets involved, sending them the press release (with a personally crafted cover note), and then personally following up.

We will still email press releases to additional contacts from our professional media subscription services, but without the same level of checking and follow up. And where an international press release is involved, we utilise the services of global PR distribution outlets that syndicate releases to thousands of outlets.

So in an era when many press release distribution services offer distribution on a mass scale, we offer press release distribution services with a personal touch. Its part of our ‘house style’, and is designed to deliver better outcomes for our clients.

Are marketers flaky wimps?

I just love David Meerman Scott’s recent post, headlined Branding is for Cattle.

Have a read of this point about content and aesthetics:

Marketers who obsess about brand usually focus on aesthetics over buyers. They are more interested in the color scheme of the Web site than in meeting their buyers’ needs with a content marketing strategy. They care about logos not buyers. They research color schemes instead of the market. Countless marketers got their knickers in a twist about the outward manifestation of an organization’s brand–including logos, image ads, and tchotchkes–all at the expense of buyers and what they need to understand the company — especially the content found on the company’s site. Well, they are flaky wimps if that’s what they do.

Couldn’t agree more. I’m intrigued by the way online marketing differs from traditional marketing, and the extent to which it relies on content. My personal view is that content is king (and queen). For people to buy online, they need trust. In some cases a brand may help build trust (and I’m talking brands like Apple or IBM here). Not the kind of brand assets usually available to small business. Without a well recognised brand, you need to be able to build trust online using content. Heck, even with a well recognised brand you have to build trust with excellent content.

There is an argument that runs in online marketing circles that ugly sites sell. Well, sort of.

I think its that sites built with the primary purpose of selling will sell better than sites built to look great. Spending a lot of time focussing on how your site looks means less time to work on how well it sells. And perhaps an ‘ugly’ site that has had a lot more attention to selling than looks will perform better. Its not the looks – pretty or ugly – that will swing it. Its how well designed it is for selling, and how well the content is executed. Besides, ugly is relative. Sites that are pretty for some are ugly for others.

How well a site markets and sells is tied mainly to its content and structure, not its look. A site should still look professional, but it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money to achieve this. We’ve launched a new site recently called Histology Online with what I term our ‘$2 design’. Its called a $2 design because we use an image from iStockPhoto (for around $2) as our site header, tweak the font and colour as needed, and that is it. Most of the time that goes into site design is spent considering how the site is to function, and how information needs are going to be met.

So spend your precious time and money on structuring your site to sell and using great content. With your marketing, focus on the buyer. Who are they? What are their wants and needs? What benefits does your product or service offer to them? How will you use content to communicate to your buyers? How will you test whether your content is effective? Hard questions. Not for the flaky.

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