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PR Tips | Social Media Drives the News

Can you run an effective PR campaign today without a social media component? A quick look at the numbers suggests that the answer is “no.”

Roughly 25% of all Americans now have a Twitter account. Facebook has more than a billion users -- and about half of all Americans have accounts. Meanwhile, 82 million American consumers are constantly connected to the social media pulse, accessing their social profiles from their phones.

It used to be that people took blogs less seriously than traditional news reporting. But that’s changing. Sixty-five percent of people now find the information they see posted online trustworthy, according to ING's new Impact of social media 2012.

Look at any recent news event -- from the election to Superstorm Sandy to the Patraeus scandal. It’s obvious that social media is driving the news and shaping public opinion.

Profiles in PR | Tara Curtis

Your Name: Tara Curtis
Your Position: Director, Communications
Your Business: West Virginia University Alumni Association
Company Website: alumni.wvu.edu
Twitter: @WVUAlumniAssoc (business) @WVUGal93 (personal)

Services You Offer:
The WVU Alumni Association represents West Virginia University's largest constituency - more than 185,000 alumni worldwide. We provide outreach opportunities throughout the country, develop opportunities for social and professional networking, and engage our alumni through communications, including web, social media and printed communication.

Your Niche Area of Expertise:
Communications, strategic messaging and media relations.

How Did You Get Started in this Business?
My first real "communications" job was working for an energy company where I had an opportunity to develop great skills in the areas of crisis communications, media relations and internal/external relations. The experiences I gained with this company really helped me enhance my professional skills and developed my work ethic. I have always enjoyed working with nonprofit agencies, so when the opportunity was presented to work for my alma mater, I jumped at the chance. Working with alumni who are passionate about their university makes my job fun, challenging and wonderful.

PR Tips | Hit the Refresh Button

We just redesigned our website here at Keybridge Communications after only two years. Why so soon? For us, there were several reasons.

First, we recently expanded our core services to include Web Development, Graphic Design and Social Media -- and these new services needed to have their own place on our website.

Second, our original website was created in Flash, and with the ever-changing technology on phones and tablets, we needed to stay up-to-date.

Third, we felt that our business, clients, potential clients, and followers would benefit from a blog.

So how do you know when it’s time for a website makeover? Here are a few questions to ask yourself that might help you decide:

Advice from the Media | William Beecher

Name: William Beecher Title: Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland, College Park. (Pulitzer Prize winning former Washington correspondent for the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal and New York Times.) Personal Blog: WilliamBeecher 1) Describe what your typical workday was in 140 characters or less. When covering foreign affairs from Washington, I would start the day at the State Department, seeing sources I’d set up in advance, then move to other interviews at DOD, the White House, the Hill, the CIA, or with think tank experts or foreign embassy officials. 2) What's the best pitch you've ever received? During the Kennedy Administration officials spelled out a missile gap with the Soviet Union. It was exaggerated for political purposes. 3) The greatest words of wisdom an editor ever gave you? “Go with what you’ve got.” It was advice from Prof. John Hohenberg at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. The idea was: do as much reporting and research at you could, but when it came close to deadline, you should write the story on the basis of the best information you had at that point. You could always continue reporting and add new information subsequently. 4) If there was one thing you could tell every PR practitioner, what would it be? When your client has bad news, put it out immediately. You might have a day or two of lumps, but if you allow bad news to have legs and fester, it will bite your client endlessly.

Copy Editor’s Corner | Assure – Insure – Ensure

>Rest assured you’re not the first person to be tripped up by insure, ensure, and assure. And for good reason -- there is a fair amount of leeway in the usage of these words.

But while a dictionary may state that it’s okay to use insure in a context other than insurance, and assure to mean “guarantee,” many style guides have stricter guidelines.

AP style, for instance, assigns one meaning to each word:

“Use ensure to mean guarantee . . . insure for references to insurance . . . assure to mean to make sure or give confidence.”

This approach simplifies the matter and makes the definitions easier to memorize. While you could defend your usage by pointing to Merriam-Webster, style guides often trump dictionaries.

PR Tips | Writing An Effective Press Release

In addition to my work at Keybridge, I'm the publisher of Terroirist.com, an award-winning daily wine blog. So when I'm not at the office, I'm immersed in the world of wine -- attending and hosting tastings, reading and writing articles, and browsing other blogs. One of my favorites is Fermentation, published by wine industry insider Tom Wark, a veteran wine marketer and publicist. Last summer, Tom wrote a blog post detailing how to write an effective press release. While Tom's focus was wine, the lessons are universal. So if you work in PR, it's well worth reading. The key takeaway? "The one thing that anyone writing, receiving, or reading a press release needs to be able to do is understand what 'news' is and if the press release contains any." Too often, public relations firms are guilty of sending out press releases devoid of news. When writing a press release, you must have a sense of what 'news' is -- to journalists, not your client -- and if the press release contains any. A good PR professional should be able to take virtually any story and make it newsworthy. All that's required is creativity and media savvy. Consider a fairly typical assignment for our firm, the release of a new think tank study. Let's think about a few possible headlines:

PR Tips | Home runs don’t just happen in PR, either

San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval inscribed his name in baseball's history books Wednesday night by hitting three home runs in Game One of the World Series. With the feat, he joined some illustrious company. Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols are the only others to do the same. To casual baseball fans, Sandoval may seem to have appeared out of nowhere. But he's actually been toiling in the Giants organization for over eight years. Sandoval had to log more than 2,200 at-bats in the minors -- and another 2,100 at the major-league level -- before slugging his way into baseball immortality. Similarly, folks looking to increase their media footprint generally need to notch a number of solid-if-not-sexy placements before they can reach a million readers with one op-ed or feature article.

Profiles in PR | Michael Fulton

Name: Michael Fulton Business: The Arnold Agency Position: President, Washington Office Twitter: @hillrat1156 Services You Offer I perform a full range of government relations, public affairs and communications services for companies, associations, higher education, health systems and non-profit organizations. Creative staff in our West Virginia and Montana offices offer tremendous assistance and teamwork to any campaign or project. Your Niche Area of Expertise Federal funding strategies, and ways to help your organization advance its cause and reputation among the Administration, Congress and strategic partners. How Did You Get Started in this Business? I worked nearly 10 years on Capitol Hill, meeting hundreds of influential people and learning how government works to our advantage. I left the Hill in 1988 and began consulting with incredible results over the past two decades, regardless of which party controls Congress and the White House and how the economy is performing. Do You Have Any Advice for Potential Clients? Success in the nation’s capital remains first and foremost a people and relationship business. Hire smart people and spend time collaborating with them to serve your organization’s best interests. Do not be afraid to hold their hired lobbyists or communications firms to high expectations and ethical behavior (far too many clients are unhappy with their representation and do not know how to make a switch for the best.)