SMW Q&A session with David & Zoe

We were delighted to meet so many eager social media professionals at our Social Media Week event (#SMWLDN). Our Q&A session which allowed the audience to pose their PR and social media questions went down a storm.

The whole event was streamed live on Facebook, and you can watch the video on our Facebook page, if you'd like to put names to faces!

For everyone who missed the event, we've compiled the 20 most popular questions about PR and social media, and the answers from our expert panelists Zoe and David.

  • David Stoch (DS): Director, Meerkat PR
  • Zoe Cairns (ZC): Social Media Strategist, ZC Media (Featured on BBC and ITV)


Top 10 PR Questions at #SMWLDN

1. What’s the most common mistake when it comes to trying to entice a journalist to run your story?

DS: Relevance! You have to be relevant to the journalist’s remit and audience, and try to add value. Ask yourself, would I this interest or intrigue me? Have you presented the journalist with an interesting opinion, data or research indicating something genuinely engaging? These are key questions to ask yourself before getting in touch with a journalist. It's all about selling a story instead of selling a product.


2. What's the best way to approach a journalist you don't know?

DS: Try to make the subject of the email engaging “Exclusive research for your tech column about the rise of X” or “The latest data indicating a shift in a spending trend for Y”. Include “Attention John” before you consider the subject matter. Journalists may receive 1000+ emails a day, so it's crucial that your subject line spells it all out. If it catches their eye, they'll look at it in greater detail. Leave it with them a few days. If you get no response then forward your message with "I hope you don't mind my re-sending in case this went amiss the first time". If you’re confident you have exactly the best possible newsworthy story, call the journalist between 10–12am or between 2–4pm – these times are considered polite.


3. Do I need a press release? What do I need to give to a journalist as support to my story suggestion?

DS: If you’ve never written a press release, there are plenty step-by-step guides on Google. The basic principle is that you need to be simple and concise, whether it's in a press release format or not. Go easy on adjectives and saying how marvelous a product, story or your CEO is - they've seen it all before! State factually why something is unique or interesting. If it’s time sensitive, say so and if it's exclusive, make sure to highlight it – the press prefer content that's exclusive, not sent to all.


4. If I'm able to get a journalist on the phone, how should I handle the call?

  • Briefly introduce yourself;
  • State that it's regarding a specific story you sent them;
  • Ask if they've read your story, if not, explain the relevance/value;
  • Hand it over to them.

E.g. 'Hi John, it's David Stoch of Meerkat PR. Briefly, I just wanted to ask if you saw the exclusive story I sent you about a shift in housebuilding trends? The conversation should flow from here. If the journalist is not interested, accept it gracefully and thank them for their time.'


5. What tricks or strategies will boost my chance of getting a story featuring my company?

DS: Firstly, look at what's hot right now and find a way of making your company or story fit into that mold. For example at the moment, we know modern tech businesses are disruptors – the press love writing about them. Find out how your story or company is disrupting an industry, market or business climate. Secondly, look at the status quo and position the company you're representing as bucking a trend (if it's true of course). What are they doing that you wouldn't expect? If you dig deep enough you will find a fresh angle. Finally, make sure you having hugely engaging photo imagery to back up the story - that's what makes the story come alive for journalists.


6. Any guidance on sending pictures with stories? What difference can they make?

DS: The rules are high res 300 DPI shots in color only. Black and white, although artistic and abstract, rarely work for PR. The number one question you need to ask yourself: Does the picture tell a story? If it does, it will engage better and help the journalist publish an all-rounded article.


7. What can PR teach social media about attracting media interest?

DS: We've reached a tipping point where the press monitor Twitter feeds and other social sites for stories because of their immediacy. For this reason, social media managers need to find ways of engaging journalists whom they would wish to target with engaging images and links to self-written pieces. They also need to court authors by liking and engaging with their posts. The idea is to be genuine about it, though. So if you know a tech journalist who is hot on Twitter, try to include them in your tweets. Or, if there’s a hot news story and you know a journalist who is likely to cover it, you can entice them with a unique angle, e.g. @bbcJohn We’ve published the latest smart phone league table from national sales data. Interested?


8. What key information should I have at hand in case I get media interest?

  • Basic press release details: The Who? What? Where? and Why?
  • Background information about your brand at the end of your official press release;
  • High resolution images;
  • All your contact details;
  • State the time sensitivity upfront (if required).


9. How do I know who to contact in terms of the press? Where do I begin?

DS: Firstly, trawl through the website of the publication and search for articles matching the subject matter. Start with that person. Secondly, they may not still be in the job, so call the publisher and check “Does John Doe still write about technology?”. If not, call the general line and ask who the correspondent is for the sector you’re targeting.


10. How do I make the most of my press coverage once I've got it?

DS: Press coverage is the most valuable endorsement in marketing that you can have. Especially from trusted major media brands like the BBC or The Telegraph. Re-purposing content important, but don’t re-purpose PR from more than a year ago. Trust Panels are a great way to create a sense of credibility with your customers and prospects when they are visiting your website.

  • Provided you have a Newspaper Licence Agency agreement, you can display news articles on your website;
  • Build a ‘trust panel’ on your home page which acts as psychological trust for website visitors. Have the logos and the links at the bottom of your page in grayscale.
  • Depending on the kind of business you have, if you’re in client service and have regular contact with your clients, send an email to them on the day the story is published. Remember, be modest about it. So, rather than, “look how great we are, we’re in the Daily Mail” it’s rather a case of “We'd like to highlight our story in today’s Daily Mail, where we share valuable lessons on the time of day to schedule social media”. Always remember to add value!

ZC: Once you have the PR exposure, or TV - you should share it across social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). It reinforces your credibility and validates your value. You can re-purpose a news story with a blog post or a live video with either the press coverage in the background or you talking about it.


Top 10 social media questions at Social Media Week

1. If your main audience is in New York and London, when is the best time to post a Facebook Live video?

ZC: 5 hours difference can be pretty harsh on any type of content, especially if you are streaming live video. You should check which audience is the most active (New York or London) and adjust your timing to it. Either way, remember that one of the best times to post to Facebook is in the early afternoon.


2. Would you say the same about other social media networks?

ZC: It's important to post your content (including video) at optimal times of the day for your audience to create the most engagement. For example, Twitter has great analytics that allow you to see when your audience is the most engaged. For other social media networks, I use Sendible’s social media management tool. It tells me the most optimal time to post my message. If you don't have it (though, I recommend it), Tweetdeck can help you with Twitter.


3. My beauty client mainly wants to share images that are professionally taken, rather than "in the moment". What is the best mix to have?

DS: There is no clear cut answer to that. It needs to be a combination of both. Focus on quality and try to do something special - don't follow all of the main brands. Remember that overly promoting your product on social media is perceived negatively, but a small fraction is completely fine.

ZC: Professional photos are required, but you also need to share photos of your products being used. That's how you get the most organic reach and engagement. Being too structured and professional can make you look fake. People need to see that there are other people behind the product so quirky shots are the ones that people respond to most.


4. How frequently should I stream Facebook live videos?

ZC: First, you really need to get the engagement going with regular posts - build up to the videos, get them to go to your website and cookie them. From there, once a week is a great starting point. Decide what it is you what you want your videos to achieve. Once they have been streamed, you can check analytics to see where you did well and where you didn't. Remember that you can also choose whether to post Facebook Live videos to your timeline.


5. What advice would you give to a company that only streams during a yearly event in the sports industry.

ZC: Your ultimate goal is to get as many people watching your live event as possible. Start preparing for the event at least 4-6 weeks in advance, 2-3 months would be even better. A new Facebook live feature is dual video. These video interviews allow you to show two parties. You could use it to interview athletes and organizers, have pre-event competitions and use the event's hashtags to build momentum.


6. As a charity without a big budget, how can I get maximum exposure through video when campaigning for a cause?

ZC: Use Facebook Live as your TV channel - broadcast mini interviews, Q&A's, behind the scenes action holding branded collateral or in front of a branded backdrop.

DS: If you're going to be doing Facebook live, you can use it to get press coverage. Create short clips about your brand or event that can portray emotion to journalists. Even if you reach out to radio, it can work because they will hear the speaker and understand how that might work with their broadcasts.


7. What are the top tips in terms of data capture? What would you recommend that helps with video?

ZC: You could announce your event like this: "We are doing a Facebook Live on everything about catwalk events and fashion! on 25th November. If you subscribe to the event, we will send you a checklist of things you need to include to create a successful catwalk event." You could also run Facebook lead ads that open pop-up boxes where users can enter their details in exchange for an e-book/whitepaper. In this way you can capture data in exchange for providing the contact with valuable content.


8. Is there anything you would recommend to avoid social media streaming mishaps?

ZC: Providing your colleagues with a social media policy is important. And remember to let them know that they will be on camera. You need to decide if there is a particular way you would like the team to behave, even if they are in background. Of course, if your videos are mostly behind-the-scenes, you can leave most as it is.


9. We are planning to live stream from a number of different destinations, some may struggle to get a WiFi signal, what would you suggest?

ZC: When you live stream, you need a strong WiFi signal. If it may freeze or drop, just avoid posting to the timeline until you can either edit, or re-record the video.

DS: I'd recommend testing the internet speed before going live - using on your phone. If you are in one spot and it gives you a consistent reading, you should be fine.


10. What should I do if my social media goes wrong and how should I deal with the haters?

ZC: I always get asked that question! Even if you set your account and posting preferences on Private, people can still screenshot and share with the world. When something does go wrong, deleting the original message is the worst thing you can do. Mainly because it opens up many other issues and the person who commented originally can escalate it further. Instead, you need to try turn a negative into a positive, and seek the best way to resolve any issues, including support.

Veronika Vebere

Veronika Vebere

Resident marketer at Sendible. Into social media and blogging for more than 7 years and well-versed in all digital marketing channels. My biggest daily driver is creating useful content that helps others grow and saves their time, so if it does for you, let me know on Twitter or Linkedin!


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