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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Online PR: Should You Pitch or Ignore These 6 HARO Personas?

Online PR: Should You Pitch or Ignore These 6 HARO Personas?

Ken McGaffin
HARO can be a great way to get coverage and links for your website – but it can also be a huge waste time with no results if you approach it in the wrong way. Understand these six personas and you’ll avoid wasting time and focus on the queries that could give you the media opportunity you’re looking for.
Online PR is an important part of any link-building strategy, but SEOs don’t always have the right skill sets to make it work for them. But one of the great things about HARO is that it can provide a great education at no cost – just dive in and keep at it!
HARO does have quality rules and the sites that pitch must have a certain score on Alexa. And the editors do scan the pitches and do refuse pitches that are not up to scratch.
Sign up at HelpAReporter.com and you’ll get three emails per day featuring queries from journalists who are looking for examples and good quotes to add color to their stories.
Scan through the queries (you’ll get between150 and 200 per day) and you’ll find that they fall into these types of personas.

Persona #1: Top-Notch

The BBCWashington PostABC NewsFast Company, and many other top media outlets regularly pitch queries on HARO. These journalists use HARO to get quotes and add personal stories to their content.
This is one of the great advantages of HARO – it allows anyone who signs up to get access to top journalists.
Of course the payback can be tremendous, however for the top-notch journalists:
  • You need to be exactly the type of person they’re looking for
  • You’re going to face a lot of competition – lots of other people will be pitching
  • You’ve got to have a great story and you’ve got to pitch it well – no mean task
If you can’t fulfill these criteria, then you’ll be wasting your time pitching.
And even if you do have a great story, that doesn’t necessarily, mean you’ll get a link. However, you can improve your chances (see 10 Ways to Increase the Odds of Getting Editorial Links).

Persona #2: General Business Sites

Probably the most common and possibly the most useful of the media outlets you’ll see on HARO. Most have good audiences and require a good standard of writing. These include sites like Open Forum from American Express, Entrepreneur Magazine, and BankRate.com.
Most of your online PR effort on HARO should go into sites like these.
They present a good opportunity because any business can respond, no matter what industry you come from.
The resulting articles are likely to be along the lines of "21 Small Business Owners Share Their Top Tips on…." That means you don’t really have a chance to stand out – the article will not be exclusively about you or your business.
There’s a high probability of getting a link because such sites understand the value exchange – give them a good quote and you get a link in return.
Of course others will see that too, so you’ll have lots of competition.
What is required is:
  • Flexibility in being able to see how to make your business relevant to the subject of the article.
  • A great sound bite – you need to write something original so that they can simply cut and paste into their article.

Persona #3: Niche Business Sites

These are queries from particular niches – lawyers, psychotherapists, dog trainers, and so on. You really have to be relevant to that niche – trying to twist your story to fit is a waste of time.
If you do fit the bill, you’re likely to get good editorial coverage and a decent link – but you must have a good story to tell.
The disadvantage is that any particular niche is not going to be featured that often and so your opportunities are limited.

Persona #4: Stingy Business Sites

Becoming a writer and posting queries to help you build content for your own site is a legitimate strategy (see Using HARO to Create Fresh, Compelling Content).
However, the value exchange mentioned earlier should be followed – any site that gets a good quote should give a link in return.
But "stingy" sites don’t follow this value exchange. They’re usually attached or related to a commercial business so they’re not strictly a non-partisan media opportunity. They’re often reluctant to give links because they want to sell their own good or services.
So choose very carefully before investing time in making pitches to these sites!

Persona #5: Authors Looking for Material for Future Books

These can be a mixed bunch. You may get some decent writers, with a publishing contract already in place, looking for interesting examples or case studies.
But you may also get a lot of people writing their first e-book who think they can fill it with material from HARO pitches. They still have to meet the Alexa threshold, but it‘s worth checking them out.
  • the book may never get published
  • you’ll wait a long time for your publicity or link
  • your contribution may be out of date by the time it’s published
  • ,li>if the book does get published, it might bomb - no fame or fortune for you!
Are you really prepared to take the chance?

Persona #6: Anonymous

You’ll also see queries that give neither the name of the writer nor their targeted publication. For some reason, the publication does not want to tell you who they are.
Perhaps they’ve got a guaranteed spot on Oprah Winfrey and don’t want to be inundated with hundreds of pitches?
Perhaps, but you shouldn’t count on it. Your time could be better spent on other opportunities.
These six personas cover most of the queries you’ll find on HARO. But before pitching, you need to do some further checks.

Simple Checks on Queries That Interest You

When you do find queries that seem to fit the bill, check out:
  • Is the site a place where you’d really like to be featured?
  • Does the site readily link to sites that are featured in published articles?
  • Can you find articles that have already been written by the journalist behind the query?
  • Are there other ways to pitch this journalist or media outlet? A guest post or a press release perhaps?
Handling the media is something that won’t come naturally to all SEOs (see Jon Ball on SEW, "The Future of Link Building").
However, if you think you’ve got an aptitude for working with the media, then HARO is a great place to start.
You will get editorial and often that will be accompanied by quality links. But perhaps more importantly you’ll get the opportunity to develop your skills by working with and building contacts within the media – and that could be very valuable indeed.

Friday, August 8, 2014

For Retailers, Being Social is Harder Than It Looks

For Retailers, Being Social is Harder Than It Looks

Retailers are constantly being urged to up their social media presence. But that doesn’t mean they should simply join another social network and then forget about it. In the rush to be part of modern retailing, some stores forgot the communal, interactive aspect of social media.
Michael Weiss, managing partner for C-4 Analytics, a Boston-based digital marketing agency, says most retailers – and not just apparel – are still struggling to understand social media. They need to discover how social media can deliver customer research and customer service, and fill gaps that a marketing program cannot. While most consumers start their online apparel shopping through retailer or brand sites (55 percent), e-commerce sites (29 percent), and search engines (25 percent) according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor Survey, almost 1 in 10 consumers start shopping through social media sites (7 percent).
“Anyone who’s looking at social media as just another place to put advertising is missing the point,” Weiss says.  “Social media is not just another place to post your weekly circular or hype your latest sale. Understand who you want to reach and what goals you want to achieve. Once you have that information, you can identify the social media platform and communication strategy that is most likely to work.”
In the low-margin world of fashion retail, apparel stores that manage to navigate the diverse social media landscape can benefit greatly, especially given that shoppers still say clothes (30 percent) are their top item of choice to shop for, followed by electronics, (23 percent), groceries (25 percent) shoes (10 percent) and cosmetics (6 percent), according to the Monitor survey. And the majority (55 percent) continue to “love or enjoy” clothes shopping.
8_7 chart
The problem for retailers is that social media isn’t as simple as setting and forgetting a Facebook page or Twitter account. It’s about geo-location apps that can alert shoppers to local deals, wallet apps that show mobile users where they can shop nearby while paying via smartphone, as well as reward apps that alert shoppers to deals when they walk near a store. Complicating matters is the fact that new apps continue to pop up regularly, making it tough for stores to figure out where to spend their social media dollars.
It’s expected that U.S. social media advertising revenue will jump nearly 200 percent to $15 billion in 2018, from $5.1 billion last year, according to a recent report from media research and consulting firm BIA/Kelsey. This year, the firm expects social ad revenue to increase 62.7%, to hit $8.3 billion.
Much of the social media budget revolves around ads that appear in, say, the Facebook newsfeed. But shopping apps can be quite beneficial to both the retailer and the consumer. Again, the problem is picking the right player.
Some apps, like Instagram, are really just geo-social, while others — like Shopkick or iBeacon — incorporate commerce. Geolocation apps, meanwhile, appeal to the tablet or smartphone user. The Monitor stats show 45 percent of shoppers browse on their phone, while 39 percent use their tablet, and less than one in five (18 percent) use a smart TV. However, the majority (84 percent) turns to their traditional desktop or laptop computers to browse apparel online.
Weiss says a big drawback to geolocation apps is the “spying” factor they inherently possess.
“Some of our established retail clients have been very resistant to geolocation because they see it as intrusive, and it’s hard to argue that point,” he says. “If you’re a national brand, people know who you are and where you are, and they don’t necessarily want another one of your ads showing up every time they walk by your store. They may want something very personal that’s interesting to them, such as an alert when a shirt goes on sale.”
Weiss points out that apps like Scoutmob are more of a service — and C-4 would recommend it to a new business or a regional retailer with just a few storefronts. “Platforms like this can get a local business some consideration and ‘even up’ things against the onslaught of advertising from larger retailers.”
On the other hand, he says, Shopkick is a loyalty program that gets shared across competing retailers. “You probably don’t want your customer redeeming loyalty points at the store down the road. It’s better to run your own program.”
The fact remains though, today’s consumers like various aspects of pre- and social shopping, whether it’s on a retailer’s site or social media. The majority of shoppers “always/usually/sometimes” compare prices (77 percent), browse styles (73 percent), look-up coupons (71 percent) and read customer reviews (58 percent) online before purchasing an apparel item in store, according to the Monitor. A total of 68 percent of shoppers say online product reviews are “very or somewhat influential” when shopping for apparel, up significantly from 61 percent in November 2010. And most (68 percent) read these reviews on retailer or brand websites, followed by e-commerce (30 percent) and community-based social media sites like Facebook or Twitter (15 percent) and media-based social sites like Instagram and Pinterest (13 percent).
Weiss says once a store understands who it wants to reach, it then must start listening to its customers.
“If people are asking for a specific service or information on Facebook or Twitter, find a way to provide it,” he says. “Social media has made it easier than ever for retailers to talk with their customers and learn what they want. Note that I said ‘talk with,’ which means real, two-way dialogue. If you’re just talking at them with promotions or canned questions like, ‘What’s your favorite weekend getaway?,’ you’re just going through the motions, and a lot of users will tune out. Actual conversation builds real engagement that becomes a powerful way to promote your business.”

This article is one in a series that appears weekly on sourcingjournalonline.com. The data contained are based on findings from the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey, a consumer attitudinal study, as well as upon other of the company’s industrial indicators, including its Retail Monitor and Supply Chain Insights analyses. Additional relevant information can be found at CottonLifestyleMonitor.com.