How Twitter Helped Me Pop the Question

By Adam Bowers

My fiancée loves to personalize her possessions (seriously, nearly everything she owns is monogrammed). So when I decided to ask her to marry me, I knew I had to do something unique and creative to personalize the proposal. After racking my brain for weeks, I decided to ask her favorite band, Relient K, to make her a personal video that could lead into my proposal.

While it was a great idea, I quickly realized there was one tiny problem: I had to figure out how to get the band on board. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of the band members on speed dial, and I knew showing up on their doorstep would probably land me a restraining order. So I turned to Twitter, set up a new account handle (@HelpMeRelientK) specifically for this purpose, and began tweeting at the band. Along the way, I learned a few things about getting noticed on Twitter:
Creativity is a double-edged sword
A few years ago, my proposal idea would have been a pipe dream that could never have come to fruition. Luckily one of great things about Twitter is it gives us a way to interact with those we normally would have no way of connecting with – like a famous band. But the downside to Twitter offering this connectivity is that everyone is trying to get noticed. This means you have to be incredibly clever and creative with your tweets just to break through the clutter.
To make myself stand out from the crowd, I incorporated lyrics from the band’s songs into some of my tweets. For example, the band has a song with the line, “Marilyn Manson ate my girlfriend,” so instead I tweeted to them, “Marilyn Manson did NOT eat my girlfriend! Help me propose to her! All I need is a 30 sec video.” I also knew from their tweets that the band was recording a new album at the time, so I also referenced this to show the band I was tuned in to their timeline.
Consistency is key
When it comes to getting noticed on Twitter, I found consistency to be just as important as creativity. At the beginning of my social media campaign, I was tweeting at the band once a day, hoping this would be enough. I soon realized it wasn’t. When hundreds of people are tweeting at a person or brand, it’s easy for a single tweet to get lost in the mix.
After a few days of not hearing back from anyone in the band, I upped the ante to three or four tweets a day. This not only increased the chance of one of my tweets being seen, but also showed the band I was determined to get their help (or I had a lot of free time on my hands).
Research does wonders
Even after increasing the number of creative tweets I sent each day, I still had no luck. At this point, I assumed that either the band had pegged me as a stalker who needed to be avoided at all costs, or I simply still had not optimized my chances of getting noticed.
I started looking more carefully at my target audience (the band) and picked up on a few things. For example, I realized the account for the band was merely a talking head that never interacted with anyone, so I shifted my focus to tweeting at the individual band members. I even took it one step further by studying their past tweets to learn what times of day they were active on Twitter. I then scheduled my tweets to go out at these times in hopes of catching the band members while they were checking their Twitter feeds.
Shortly after I combined strategic timing with creativity and consistency in my tweets, the band’s guitarist sent me a direct message with his email address so I could pass along a more detailed message.  And finally, 22 days and 39 tweets later, the band granted my wish for a personalized video to my girlfriend that segued into my proposal. Needless to say, she was blown away, and most importantly, she said “yes.”

A PR Professional’s Guide to Avoiding Spoilers During the 2012 “Social Olympics”

WARNING: Olympic Spoilers Ahead
By Caroline Nobles

As public relations professionals, so much of our job depends upon staying up on current events and news. In addition to sifting through newspapers and watching local and national TV stations, we must now regularly scan non-traditional media such as blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter feeds for the most recent coverage.
And the current hot topic? The 2012 London Olympic Games. There is a steady barrage of news concerning shattered world records, down-to-the-wire finishes, heartbreaking losses and mind-boggling wins. And all of the event news can be heard, seen or read in real-time thanks to online video streaming and social media updates. The Games were even dubbed the first ever “Social Games” as Twitter recorded 9.66 million tweets just during the Opening Ceremony.

But the trouble with having immediate Olympic results at our fingertips is that some of us still don’t want to know the outcomes until we have the chance to watch the events on television, live or taped. Most avid Olympic fans, such as myself, don’t want to find out via Twitter that Michael Phelps won gold to become the most decorated Olympian, or read on Yahoo! News that defending beach volleyball champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings historically lost their first Olympic set, but managed to dig, set and spike their way to a win. We want to see the action for ourselves.
Here are my tips to help PR professionals avoid spoilers while still staying in the loop throughout the day:
Reset your web browser
During the Olympics, no major online news outlet is safe. It’s almost impossible to avoid the Internet while trying to work during the day, but we can minimize our exposure. Avoid casual news-surfing and use a search engine, such as Google, that doesn’t list real-time news updates. And if you must visit a news outlet like USA Today or The Wall Street Journal, navigate as quickly as possible to the section or search bar you are trying to find. (I recommend holding a hand in front of the computer screen to block scrolling news updates).
Turn the dial down on talk radio
You can tempt fate by hovering over the radio dial in your car, ready to change the station at any one moment should the broadcaster start recapping the daily sporting news, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The risk of overhearing an Olympic event spoiler is too great. Instead, use your commute time to clear your head, outline your work load for the next day, listen to your new audio book, or simply plug in your iPod to eliminate all risk of spoilers.
Limit your social media intake
Twitter may be the most difficult social media outlet to shun during the Olympics. Athletes immediately post to the site to celebrate their medals or the successes of their teammates. If you must check Twitter, you can use applications like Twitter DogHouse or TweetDeck, which allow you to stop following users for a certain amount of time, or filter out words and hashtags associated with the Games.
Even Instagram isn’t safe from Olympic spoilers. The mobile phone app, which allows users to filter and post creative photos to their followers, spoils its own share of surprises for those who follow Olympic athletes. For example, Michael Phelps posted a photo of him and training partner Allison Schmitt, with their silver and bronze medals from the 4×100 freestyle relays, immediately after winning the medals – but long before coverage aired in the U.S. I recommend temporarily un-following Olympic athletes until the Games are over, or avoid the application altogether for a few weeks.
Inform others of your plan
You may do everything correctly, from driving to work without the radio in the background, to staying off Twitter and Instagram, to avoiding all online news sites that may hint at Olympic results, but if you forget to tell your co-workers, family and friends about your mission to avoid Olympic results, all your hard work may be for naught. I know firsthand the feeling of almost making it through a work day with no new Olympic updates until hearing an unknowing co-worker casually exclaim from his office, “Michael Phelps gets the record!” So post a sign outside your office door, send an office-wide email or verbally communicate with your colleagues to let them know of your plan to avoid all real-time Olympic results.
While the Social Olympics are still heating up this week, and many are following the results in real-time via traditional and non-traditional media outlets, rest assured you don’t have to be one of them. It is indeed possible for PR professionals to maintain office productivity while staying away from the daytime Olympic results. And if you falter, it’s not the end of the world. After all, you’ll have another chance to perfect how to watch (or not watch) in 2016!
Photo courtesy of Claire Dancer’s Flickr photostream.

How PR Professionals Can Break Through a Culture of Over-Communication

By Emily Thomas

Buzz. Click. Ping.
How many times in the last hour have you heard your smartphone vibrate, your email ping or or one of your social media sites sound an alert? Probably more times than you can count. And you’re not alone.
CNN reported a study that showed smartphone owners check their phones for email, messages and social media notifications 34 times a day. That’s in addition to time spent on computers checking email, Websites and the like.
This frequent communication is great for staying in touch with friends and family, but the volume of communication has made media pitching tougher for PR pros. Journalists, like everyone else, are becoming better at tuning out inbound communications – including media pitches. You can imagine how an inbox packed with pitches could have that effect.
So how can we break through this? Below are four tips for breaking free from the crowd and getting the attention of journalists.
Check your watch
Since a reporter’s email inbox is constantly flooded with story ideas, it’s crucial to optimize when you pitch yours. For example, you should avoid pitching at the end of the work day or sending out a press release on a Friday afternoon. Choosing the right time to pitch a story or send a news release can reduce the odds of getting lost in an overcrowded inbox.
Do your research
Many publications post editorial calendars online. Getting to know the schedule for each outlet you’re researching will boost pitching success rate. Targeting a weekly business journal? Most hit the stands on Friday but go to print on Wednesday – meaning Tuesday nights or Wednesday mornings are terrible times to pitch. Reporters and editors at monthly publications will tend to be busier certain weeks of each month, depending on when exactly they go to press. Get to know these cycles and reach out to journalists when they are less stressed and have the time to concentrate and read through your pitch.
Be creative
Today we must be creative in how we approach journalists. For example, a PR professional recently sent an editor at Fast Company magazine a Twitter video pitch that landed her a coffee meeting. The request was eye-catching and unusual. Creativity can help break through the chatter and impress journalists who are used to seeing uninspired pitches all day long.
Find your perfect match
Generic media lists don’t make the cut anymore. Naturally, not every story will be newsworthy for every media outlet, but assuming there is some real news value to your pitch, I can practically guarantee that somewhere there’s a journalist or publication that will be interested. The more research you do on reporters (what stories they’ve covered, their beats, what they are sharing on their Twitter accounts, etc.), the closer you can get to making a connection and following up on a story. Personalizing your pitches for specific journalists helps considerably in breaking through the clutter and earning a story.
In the endless stream of emails, tweets, status updates and blog posts, PR professionals must work harder and smarter than ever before. The pitch that’s the most relevant, targeted and personal wins. So before you reach for your smartphone, send an email or share a social media update, make sure you’re using the right form of communication. Personalization isn’t a luxury anymore; it’s a necessity.
Photo courtesy of Ian Lamont via

Having Trouble Generating Coverage? Try Social Media

By Michelle Rash

There is a growing body of evidence that reporters are not only turning to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for recreation, but also for sourcing and research. For example, one survey found that nearly 45 percent of reporters read a corporate blog when conducting research on a specific company and that a quarter of all journalists visit a company’s Facebook page to gather information.
This ultimately raises the question – are companies doing enough on social media to generate the positive press coverage they want? While many companies are still shy about tapping into the power of social media to engage with reporters, one of our clients has recognized the value it can hold.
A Case Study
More than a year ago, RLF began managing a Twitter account for one of our clients targeted specifically at the media covering that industry.
Since taking over the account, it has grown from roughly 500 followers to more than 1,300 followers, including reporters at some of the nation’s largest newspapers, industry bloggers and government regulators. Through this account, RLF has been able to reach out to followers to promote research and press releases issued by our client, share the company’s point of view on important industry issues, and have conversations and engage with key reporters.
This interaction has led to some positive media coverage. In the most notable example, after seeing a tweet by the Associated Press promoting upcoming coverage on a variety of topics related to this client’s industry, RLF responded via tweet asking if sources were still needed for the stories. Less than 48 hours later, a spokesperson for our client was being interviewed by an AP writer for a story that earned national coverage.
Powerful Tools
While not every company needs to create a unique Twitter account for the media, companies should remember that Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites can be powerful tools for media outreach. Many news organizations and journalists have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts (this study found that four out of five business journalists use Twitter daily). Find which ones matter to your business and your industry, and connect with them through these channels. Praise a story, provide feedback on a topic they are covering, or find other ways to engage to help boost their awareness and increase your credibility.
On the flip side, as a growing number of reporters are using social media for work purposes, it’s important for companies and their spokespeople to understand that news is now more instantaneous than ever. I have seen reporters live tweet from events and press conferences, and tease out the details of interviews as soon as the discussion is complete. Things that were once considered too minor or irrelevant for a print or broadcast story may now get mentioned in a blog or on a Twitter feed. This makes it even more important for those being interviewed to be aware that once something has been said or done, it cannot be taken back. This should not dissuade you from interviews, but just as social media creates more opportunity for positive exposure, there is more opportunity for error.
Our experience with Twitter has found the benefits of social media, whether for customer engagement or media outreach, far outweigh any risks. As media keeps evolving, successful businesses must partner with companies such as ours to make sure both the message, and the medium in which it is delivered, are correct.