Reporters Urge White House Transparency: The challenge is access to experts

By Tracy Schario, originally posted at PRSAY

Tension with the media is sometimes an unfortunate and unintentional aspect of public relations. PR and public affairs practitioners often face a delicate balancing act between providing accurate information in a timely manner to reporters and bloggers while managing confidential employer/client information. When a PR contact doesn’t return a call or email, however, it can look like stonewalling or withholding information.

When it comes to covering the White House and federal policy and regulations, the stakes for media and public affairs are high. President George W. Bush’s administration was often criticized for being the most secretive administration in history. With this background, President Barack Obama took office in 2009 promising to lead the most transparent administration in history.

But, transparency is not the same as access to information, government officials and scientific experts who can help interpret presidential decisions and administrative actions. To this end, President Obama has been criticized by the media for a myriad of offenses:

  • Limited access for photographers in favor of releasing official White House photos.
  • Justice Department reviewed private communications of Fox News reporter James Rosen to find a national security leak.
  • Justice Department secretly obtained AP phone records in an effort to find a government leak.
  • Administration denied or censored more Freedom of Information Act requests than it approved.
  • Politically-driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies (e.g. the Affordable Care Act, food stamps, Fukushima).

This last protestation was codified in a July 8 letter signed by 39 individuals representing media associations including the Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Collegiate Press, Association of Opinion Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Association, National Press Photographers Association, and The Poytner Institute. They argue that the Obama administration’s restrictions on press access to public affairs offices and government sources are a form of censorship.

Politico Magazine recently surveyed members of the White House press corps regarding their opinions on transparency. The resulting infographic narrative is an instructive take on the fourth estate’s view. For example:

When President Obama calls this the “most transparent administration in history,” my reaction is… “To groan. Depends on what your definition of ‘transparent’ is. This WH means it is putting its own version of pictures, video and readouts on its own website.” —Ann Compton, ABC News 

The primary take away from the letter and survey is two-fold.  First, journalists want – and need – access to experts to fulfill the role of media watchdog, the hallmark of a democratic government.  Government officials, both on the record and “leaked” information, deliver the news and provide analysis for interpreting complex policy issues. Public affairs officers are the facilitator between the media and sources – and sometimes are the source.  Like it or not, reporters need the public relations function.

Even when the news is bad, government has a responsibility to be accessible, factual and transparent.  In 2010, I had the good fortune of teaching a master class in political communications with former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. She was fond of telling students to “own your bad facts.” In other words, don’t try to bury the news but acknowledge the facts, and do your best to present a positive and compelling narrative.

Second, journalists want to be treated with respect. For five years, I taught a graduate course in media relations at the George Washington University and hosted reporters throughout the semester. I was dismayed that most all commented on the amount of profanity used by public affairs officers in the Obama administration.  Even my PR colleagues in the administration admit that cursing is common place and sometimes encouraged. A “pro tip” in the Politico survey states: “Come on. If you can’t deal with a White House official swearing at you, it’s probably time to head for the exits of the profession.”

I must admit that when working in the tech sector, casual cursing was permissible – and a boss once told me profanity was an acceptable way to prove I had authority and knowledge. However, this is unprofessional behavior. It may be cliché, but I’ve found that a little honey goes a lot further to getting what you need – be it photo placement, a correction to a news story, or a follow up interview.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to the most recent criticisms in the journalists’ letter on CNN’s Reliable Sources defending the administration’s record of transparency. He also acknowledged the sometimes testy relationship with the press saying that if the press corps didn’t push for more access, that “is the day that they’re no longer doing their jobs.”

The media need sources and report on conflict. These are the realities of their link with public relations. The responsibility of a practitioner is to be responsive, truthful and facilitate access to expert sources. For PRSA members, that also means adhering to our code of ethics. Among its values and provisions are honesty, free flow of information, and enhancing the profession through respect. If we make a concerted effort every day to balance the sometimes competing needs of the press and business goals, we can take a step toward building stronger relationships with the media.

 

Tracy Schario, APR, is a member of PRSA’s Board of Directors and a past president of the National Capital Chapter. She has taught media relations at The George Washington University and speaks on media and PR strategy.

The Cost of Doing Business: ACA Can Raise the Cost of Hiring an Intern or Freelancer

Whether for PR or other functions, adequate staffing is a challenge all managers grapple with. Now they must consider the cost impact of the Affordable Care Act, even when using interns, freelancers or temps.

To the government there are no interns or temporary employees; the only categories that exist for the purposes of the health insurance law are Full Time, Part Time, Variable Hour and Seasonal. In 2015 – just a few months away – employers with more than 100 full-time equivalent employees will need to provide coverage for 70% of their full-time employees. By 2016 employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees will need to provide coverage to 95% of their full-time employees.

So, bringing in anyone for 30 or more hours per week will mean examining whether the organization will be responsible for the individual’s insurance.

Many PRSA-NCC members are freelancers who work on-site in their client’s offices, supplementing staff or filling in for someone on leave. Now client organizations must consider the impact of adding that professional to the team, even short term, to their health care costs, depending on their role and the work arrangement, and whether that individual has insurance of their own, independent of a subsidy.

And if an intern works more than 30 hours a week and isn’t covered by his or her parents’ plan or other source and signs up using a subsidy on a public exchange, the organization hiring that intern could be hit with a penalty.

For organizations bringing on temporary staff through a temp agency, it is important to be sure that they are contracting with the firm, not an individual associate, and that the associate is an employee of the firm. That way, the temporary staffing agency is the employer of record and the client organization is not liable for the individual’s insurance.

Kate Perrin, CEO
PRofessional Solutions, LLC

Event Recap: “Creating PR Magic…on a Shoestring Budget”

by Danielle Moore, News Generation, Inc.

It is all too common that public relations professionals are expected to create magic publicity on next-to-nothing budgets. With the extensive amount of non-profit organizations and small businesses in the Washington D.C. area, lots of PR pros are affected by small budgets.

On Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 8:00 a.m., the PRSA-NCC Professional Development committee hosted “Creating PR Magic…on a Shoestring Budget” at the U.S. Navy Memorial. Panelists included: Jeff Ghannam, communications director at the Wildlife Habitat Council; Dionne Clemons, division director of communications and community engagement at the United Planning Organization; Alicia Mitchell, senior vice president for communications at the American Hospital Association (AHA); and Lindsay Nichols, senior director of marketing and communications at GuideStar USA, Inc. Karen Addis, senior vice president at Van Eperen & Company introduced the panelists and moderated the conversation.

After some brief housekeeping announcements, all four panelists gave presentations on their best practices for public relations on a “shoestring” budget. Their combined experience working with small organizations and limited resources allowed them to share great insight to an audience full of non-profit, small business and private sector PR folks.

“Creating PR Magic…on a Shoestring Budget” panelists; Aug. 13, 2014, at U.S. Navy Memorial

Jeff Ghannam offered his advice with “10 Things in 10 Minutes.” He emphasized the importance of having a “roadmap” or focused communications and marketing plan as a reference point for company operations. Ghannam also encouraged building mutually beneficial partnerships with:

  • Staff who need to understand your brand and who value internal communications;
  • Stakeholders and coalitions who are always looking for companies to engage with;
  • Boards, committees, local units, and members who often need media training and can serve as a resource;
  • Customers who have the ability to spread the word about your work; and
  • Meeting attendees, sponsors and exhibitors who you should provide the tools (like social media) to talk positively about your brand.

Ghannam closed by stressing the importance of negotiation, developing meaningful networks, and the vitality of SEO.

The second panelist Dionne Clemons works to maximize her limited resources at her small grassroots organization every day. She presented on “How to De-Structure Your Department” and highlighted seven ways to save money:

  • Assess your budget - see what you have to work with
  • Conduct an audit - see what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past
  • Use your organization’s strategic plan and fiscal year calendar to help you financially plan - create your own communications plan based on your organization’s strategic plan
  • Be selective in the big projects you want to work on - decide on 5-7 solid projects for the fiscal year that align with your strategic plan and will help you work toward organizational goals
  • Create a master organizational cycle calendar – align your organization’s normal events with “pseudo-events” on the national calendar
  • Put systems in place – set up policies that guide you on how to deal with different situations
  • Spread the love - organize more ways for team members to get involved in projects they’re interested in

Clemons continually emphasized the importance of being critical when deciding how your budget is distributed among different categories. She encouraged audience members to cut out any excess expenses and consider reallocating the distribution of their budgets.

“Creating PR Magic...on a Shoestring Budget” panelists; Aug. 13, 2014, at U.S. Navy Memorial

“Creating PR Magic…on a Shoestring Budget” panelists; Aug. 13, 2014, at U.S. Navy Memorial

Panelist Alicia Mitchell works for a much larger organization, but she shared examples of her successful PR initiatives that can easily translate to small organizations with less resources and a tighter budget. Mitchell focused on three platforms of promotion including:

  • Instagram campaigns – During National Hospital Week, the American Hospital Association encouraged Instagrammers to use the hashtag #myhospital to shoot short videos on how their local hospital helps the community. Mitchell’s team got more than 50 videos from across 34 different states and promoted them through social media.
  • Infographics - She encouraged the audience to invest in outsourcing a graphic designer or learning how to perfect their own graphic design skills because images help to tell a visual story.
  • Radio for audience targeting – Mitchell referenced the effectiveness of earning broadcast coverage. She talked about how using radio was especially useful in publicizing the accolades of the AHA’s medical centers’ palliative care. She urged PR professionals to consider radio outreach.

Mitchell closed with an easy acronym to remember:

M – makeover an existing PR project to make it better;
A – adopt social media because it gets others involved;
G – grassroots approaches allow you to tailor your reports or projects locally;
I – infographics help you tell a story and get people interested; and
C - the company you surround yourself with matters

Measuring ROI can be a challenge. Self-proclaimed “data geek” Lindsay Nichols broke down ways PR professionals can make it much easier. Nichols spoke about how she bases her measurement practices off of the Barcelona Principles and recommended that the audience check out ROI measurement blogger Katie Paine. Before diving in to measurement, dive in to your goals, said Nichols. She emphasized developing hypotheses about what you think will result from your projects and conducting a SWOT analysis before you begin. Once you’re ready to measure, she suggested eight cost-effective “DIY ROI Measurement Methods” for PR pros on a tight budget:

  • Pattern analysis
  • Surveys
  • Online pulse polls (ex: LinkedIn)
  • Content audits
  • Interviews
  • Roundtables, lunch, focus groups
  • In-depth interviews
  • Secondary research

Nichols said qualitative, quantitative and competitive intelligence measurements should be taken consistently every month for specifics and every year for a bigger picture. She uses platforms Vocus, Simply Measured, Social Mention, Twitter Counter, Google Analytics, Excel, Igloo, LinkedIn and more to track her data on a monthly and annual basis. Nichols was sure to emphasize the two things she always measures: the share of conversation index and the brand equity index. “Metrics prove you’re making a difference,” said Nichols. “It’s what you do with it that matters.”

As Karen Addis opened up the question and answer period, audience members presented thoughtful questions asking for advice on how to stay focused, how to show the c-suite your department’s worth, how to monetize and how to adapt to diversity in the media through introducing foreign languages.

Veterans Matter: PRSA-NCC Provides Valuable Resource in Moving Veterans Forward Career Transition Workshop

It could have been any one of dozens of professional networking events happening on a weekday around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. But this particular group of 50 seasoned public affairs professionals gathered at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Virginia for an event the first of its kind — specifically empowering military communicators in their transition into civilian public relations careers.

The PRSA National Capital Chapter kicked off its comprehensive Moving Veterans Forward Career Transition Workshop with a networking session in the Memorial’s panoramic atrium where military communicators both active duty and veteran service members in military and business attire mingled with panelists and other attendees prior to the panel discussion.

Navy public affairs officers Elizabeth Zimmerman, a 20-year veteran and her colleague, Michael Sheehan, a 16-year veteran who flew in from Minneapolis for the program, were eager for it to begin.

“I am here to glean insight into the transition process, all the do’s and don’ts, and make new contacts,” said Zimmerman, whose transition begins in two months.

“I did really well in the military side of public affairs, so now I am exploring how to translate my skills effectively in the civilian world,” added Sheehan.

Moving Veterans Forward Career Transition Workshop, Presented by PRSA-NCC and Exelis Action Corps, July 23, 2014

Moving Veterans Forward Career Transition Workshop, Presented by PRSA-NCC and Exelis Action Corps, July 23, 2014

Against a backdrop of assorted flags representing various states, territories, and all the branches of the military, six panelists – all military veterans themselves – provided an overview of their professional backgrounds and experiences, sharing insights on successfully making the switch.

David Albritton, a Navy public affairs veteran, currently chief communications officer at Exelis, kicked off the panel discussion by championing the power of networking, having good mentors, and thinking strategically about one’s key strengths and how they fit into the big picture of target organizations.

“Every opportunity I ever had came because of someone in my network,” said Albritton.

Vox Optima owner and executive director, Merritt Hamilton Allen, humorously shared that she was initially “the public affairs officer that no one wanted” but sheer resilience and willingness to be flexible and continuously step up to new challenges despite health setbacks has been instrumental to her success. As an entrepreneur, she has also proven to be a person of her word, hiring vets who make up two-thirds of her staff, and speaking up about the challenges and opportunities disabled veterans face.

Twenty-year Air Force vet, Jon Anderson, who is now deputy director of public affairs for the National Guard Bureau, emphasized honest self and skills assessment.

“When I applied for jobs, everyone knew what I was capable of,” he said. Anderson also quelled any apprehension about the transition process, “Things weren’t so different when I left the Air Force. I still had to work long hours and continually challenge myself to learn new skills,” he said. This commitment to improvement led him to join PRSA where he also received his Accreditation in Public Relations.

A love of everything about media led Vic Beck, a retired Navy Reserve flag officer, and now managing director at Burson-Marsteller, to a long, impressive career in public affairs. He encouraged veterans to be tenacious during this phase of their careers.

“Do informational interviews, find people who are leaving military service now and talk to them,” he said. “Keep your contacts warm, take a no ‘shrinking violet’ approach – ask for advice, tips, help.”

Hiram Bell, strategic planning and communication chief at U.S. Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate and a 31-year Army veteran said he actively sought out mentors “who gave me advice about jobs I was suitable and unsuitable for – armed with such invaluable feedback one can dig a little deeper, better,” said Bell.

Moving Veterans Forward Career Transition Workshop, Presented by PRSA-NCC and Exelis Action Corps, July 23, 2014

Moving Veterans Forward Career Transition Workshop, Presented by PRSA-NCC and Exelis Action Corps, July 23, 2014

As chief executive officer and founder of ScoutComms, Fred Wellman was not shy about working online connections via LinkedIn and setting up coffee meetings to grow his professional contacts.

“Experiences unique to their service is what vets bring wherever they go – they know firsthand how to solve problems. This is a skill needed everywhere.” Wellman said. “Go beyond the job sites, invite people to coffee, and ask them to introduce you to more people.”

The panel discussion closed with Q & A followed by one-on-one mentoring, career counseling and resume review sessions for which participants signed up at arrival.

A culmination of weeks of planning, the event was part of a broader PRSA Moving Veterans Forward initiative launched in the fall of 2013. By spring of 2014, the PRSA-NCC, the organization’s largest chapter, started enrolling participants in the D.C. area. Benefits of the program include a one-year free PRSA and PRSA-NCC membership, resume writing, networking, and job interview advice from PRSA-NCC mentors.

“The main thing is we wanted vets and service men and women within the communications niche to know they matter,” said Richard Spector who came in from New York to represent PRSA and participate as one of 16 mentors.

“It’s not always a matter of life and death in the corporate world but vets have lived in that space – they helped protect our future, now PRSA wants to help protect theirs.”

The following individuals were panelists and mentors for the workshop participants:

Panel members and mentors:

  1. David Albritton, Chief Communications Officer, Exelis;
  2. Merritt Allen, Owner and Executive Director, Vox Optima;
  3. Jon Anderson, Deputy Director, Public Affairs, National Guard Bureau;
  4. Vic Beck, Managing Director, Burson-Marsteller;
  5. Hiram Bell, Chief, Strategic Planning and Communication for the U.S. Coast Guard, Acquisition Directorate
  6. Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder, ScoutComms

Mentors:

  1. Mitch Marovitz, USA retired, PR consultant and instructor
  2. Cyndi Scott-Johnson, CEO & Executive Producer, 3Roads Communications
  3. Russ Hodges, President & Executive Producer, 3Roads Communications
  4. Karen Jeffries, President, CEO, Veterans Moving Forward, Inc.
  5. Ginny Bueno, Communications Director, US Department of Agriculture
  6. Jill Wolf, Senior Communications Manager, Exelis Inc.
  7. Leah Lackey, Director of Commuications, Exelis Information Systems
  8. Janie Lee Mabe, Career coach, TechStarz, LLC
  9. Richard Spector, PRSA Moving Veterans Forward Initiative

A former co-chair of the PRSA-NCC membership committee, the author, Ufuoma Otu, is the founder of TakeCulture LLC which provides marketing communications solutions for international organizations. Visit: www.take-culture.com, for more information.

First PRSA-NCC Sponsor Spotlight Shines in Crystal Penn from the U.S. Navy Memorial

Every month or so, we are going to highlight a chapter sponsor so you can learn more about them, and possibly connect with them as they have done so much to support our chapter. We want to thank Crystal R. Penn, Director of Events, US Navy Memorial, for being the first to be spotlighted. Here is the skinny:

Q: Tell us more about the US Navy Memorial and your role there:
Answer: The US Navy Memorial has been open for over 25 years in the Penn Quarter section of downtown D.C. The Memorial is a museum dedicated to people in the Military. This year we are celebrating “Year of the Coast Guard.” Each year the exhibit changes to honor a different part of our military branches. The Memorial also host over 600 events yearly including retirements, cocktail receptions, luncheons, conferences and movie screenings to name a few.

Q: How long has US Navy Memorial been involved with PRSA-NCC?
Answer: The US Navy Memorial has partnered with PRSA-NCC for several years now. We host many of their meetings on site at our location in our movie theater that seats 242 people. We have also hosted some workshops and smaller meetings in our conference room that seats about 30 people.

Q: Is there anything you want to tell our members about the US Navy Memorial that we may not know?
Answer: Every summer the Memorial holds free concerts on the plaza every Tuesday after Memorial Day till Labor Day at 7:30 p.m. Different sections of the Navy Band come out and perform.

Q: What do you like best about working with PRSA-NCC so far?
Answer: I like the networking opportunity and getting a chance to meet new people and see what other companies in the area have to offer.

Q: How can our members learn more, get more information about what US Navy Memorial has to offer?
Answer: Members can learn more about the Navy Memorial by checking out our website at www.navymemorial.org. If anyone is interested in hosting an event they can contact me directly at (202) 380-0716 or cpenn@navymemorial.org.

Writing a Winning Proposal

When I’m asked to respond to a request for a proposal (RFP), I have mixed feelings. On the plus side, there’s a chance to win new business. On the negative side, I’m going to spend at least 20 hours meeting the potential client, conducting research, brainstorming, writing a proposal that essentially gives away my intellectual property when I have little information whether I can win the business–or even if there is business to win.

According to Richard Belle, president of Belle Communications, there’s good news and bad news in today’s competitive proposal world. The good news is that your firm probably has the qualifications to perform the work; and the bad news is so do most of your competitors.  Belle talked about how to write a winning proposal to 25 IPRA professional development lunch attendees at the May 1 event.

“Clients know this,” continued Belle. And in fact, he added, when judges first evaluate proposals, they typically put them into three piles: no, yes and maybe. Most proposals end up in the maybe pile. Why? Because most PR professionals write a “good” proposal that only demonstrate their competence.

“Good proposals,” said Belle, “show that you can perform the work; great proposals win the business.”

So how do you go from good to great? Here’s Belle’s advice:

  • Follow the RFP format. Most RFPs ask for specific elements. Belle suggests making absolutely sure that you respond to each RFP section.
  • Distinguish yourself from your competitors. Belle suggested taking your elevator speech and weaving it into your proposal. This might include information about cost, past accomplishments–basically why they should hire you over your competitors.
  • Know yourself, the client and your competitors. Belle said know yourself and your strengths, the client and what they are looking for, and your competitors and their strengths. Ask the client who you are competing against or conduct your own research and then write your proposal illustrating how you differ from your competitors.
  • Write an original proposal. Ok I’ll admit it–I cut and paste some sections of my proposals. Belle says this is obvious to those evaluating the submission. He suggests writing an original proposal each time that addresses exactly what the client is seeking.
  • Back up claims with facts. As PR professionals, we steer clear of making “claims.” This is critical in a proposal. If you say you will complete the work 2 weeks ahead of deadline according to Belle, you need to make sure you meet that deadline. In other words, don’t make unrealistic promises or ones you can’t keep.
  • Win or lose, request a debrief. While most of us request a debrief only when we lose a bid, Belle says you should request a debrief win or lose. He says it’s important to know why you won so you can be sure to focus on those points that helped you win the business.

Following these suggestions can help your firm go from writing good proposals to writing great proposals–and increases your odds of winning business.

Submitted by NCC board member Sheri L. Singer, president of Singer Communications a PR firm designed to save clients time and money while delivering stellar services. She is a charter member of IPRA, has served on the IPRA board for 10 years (chair in 2009). She also is the Education Chair of ASAE’s Communications Section Council.

Mark Schaefer: How to Avoid Content Shock and Win the Future

The storm that beat down the Mid-Atlantic on April 30 brought rain but no lighting. Still dozens of marketers and PR pros walked away shocked and awed after Mark Schaefer’s presentation at Google’s Washington, DC office.

Mark-Schaefer-Content-ShockAs a lead up to Vocus’ Demand Success PR and Marketing Conference on June 5-6, Schaefer, the author of “Social Media Explained,” discussed the past, present and future of marketing, including the impending Content Shock.

First adopters reap the spoils, Schaefer says, that’s why it’s so important to have a solid grasp of where we were, where we are and where we soon will be.

“Every time we get to the end of one of these revolutions, it gets more difficult for businesses,” Schaefer says.

Let’s take a look at his insights:

Past and Present Digital Revolutions

The Internet: A lonely place

Schaefer fondly recalled the day he sat down with his computer, plugged in the phone jack, heard the screeching modem and downloaded a picture from NASA in five minutes.

He described the Internet of about 20 years ago as “a lonely place.” The first adopters simply treated their websites as brochures and often included the same content and pictures.PRSA_Ad_DS_208x165_v2-01

Time to get found

As websites became ubiquitous, people learned they needed to stand out, and Google was the answer.

The people who mastered SEO (or temporarily reaped the benefits by gaming the search engine) ranked at the top of search results, appearing in front of customers.

Today’s challenge – Content pileup

Most every business is piling onto the social web and producing content, but the amount of data created is expected to increase 600 percent by the year 2020. Seventy-five percent of that data will come from consumers and businesses.

“We’re getting to the end of this epoch and things are getting harder. It’s going to be a challenge for us until the next thing comes along,” Schaefer says.

“Right now, in America, we consume 10 hours of content a day,” he says. “Are we getting filled up? What is the limit?”

Once people hit their limit (whatever it may be), there will be a Content Shock, making it difficult for brands to reach customers.

The answer to the problem isn’t to create amazing content. That solution only works until your competitors do the same thing, resulting in an amazing content arms race.

Content-Shock-Mark-Schaefer-Audience-e1398952359252Here are Schaefer’s four ideas for succeeding as marketing in this epoch becomes tougher and tougher:

1. Shock and awe

The key to the shock and awe strategy is to be first and to be overwhelming. Find an unsaturated niche within your industry and populate it with content that will help you win the discovery battle.

Schaefer used the example of a cosmetic surgery facility. They dominated by answering all the questions people had about their clinic.

They hosted Facebook quizzes, created videos where doctors answered questions, started blogging, produced ebooks and eventually gave away a hardcover holiday cookbook to anyone who interacted with their brand.

A holiday cookbook? When people would ask about the recipe of a tasty dish, the cook would invariably mention the cosmetic surgery center.

“They were owning part of the local conversation even at Christmas dinner,” Schaefer said.

Their efforts produced a 19 percent increase in revenues, a conversion rate that jumped 20 percentage points and a top ranking for many relevant search terms.

2. Borrow a bigger pipeline

“If your pipeline is getting strangled, maybe you should borrow someone else’s,” Schaefer said.

By that he meant using sponsored content, newsjacking or influence marketing.

When it comes to influence marketing, widespread access to high-speed Internet and access to free publishing tools like social networks and blogging platforms “democratized” influence.

Schaefer told the story of Robert Scoble who became a powerful tech blogger by writing blog posts regularly during the mid 1990s. What separated Scoble was his ability to create content that moves and gets shared among a targeted audience.

As Scoble grew his following, businesses that once wouldn’t hire the college dropout realized they could use him to reach crowds by, for example, sending him products to review.

Another example is Listerine. The brand found the “Robert Scoble of oral care” and went from a small piece of the overall conversation to controlling much more of the conversation. This proves that the strategy can work for all brands, no matter how sexy they are.

3. Atomizing content

Bigger isn’t always better. People’s interest in consuming pictures, infographics and short videos have helped Vine and Pinterest burst onto the scene.

Creating atomized content can help you connect with consumers.

4. Be R.I.T.E.

R.I.T.E. is an acronym for Relevant, Interesting, Timely and Entertaining.

“If you create content that’s R.I.T.E….over time you will be creating shareable content,” Schaefer says. “Of these four, I think the big one is going to be entertainment, and the most challenging.”

Schaefer used Chipotle as an example. It created entertaining Claymation videos that people loved to watch and share and even added an iPhone game.

What’s Next?

“The next revolution is going to be about wearable technology, augmented reality and filters,” says Schaefer, who predicted that it will hit critical mass by the end of 2015.

The key is going to be in creating immersive interactive experiences, but there are challenges in the way.

People are getting bombarded with content and are starting to create physical and digital filters to keep out irrelevant stuff.

He used the example of Zite, an app that learns from the content that you interact with to deliver more of the same. That’s bad news for brands unless…

“We need to create something that’s so compelling, that’s so interesting that we invite people out of their filters.”

Immersive interactive experiences, through the use of wearables and augmented reality, will make people want to spend time with us.

No one has successfully done this yet, but the one who does will win.

“We’re on the brink of a digital world that surrounds us like the air we breathe,” Schaefer says. “There’s a first mover advantage. If you’re creating immersive experiences for your customers, there’ll be an advantage.”

Final Big Idea

How do we stand out? The answer is three words: Be. More. Human.

“People want to buy from people the same way we’ve wanted to buy since the medieval times,” Schaefer says. “We have this amazing need to connect and be social. We want to buy from the people we know. That awareness leads to trust. That trust leads to loyalty. That loyalty trumps everything…even blogs, filters and content shock.”

by Brian Conlin, originally appearing on The Vocus Blog »