You should read the post about how Mother Jones Web traffic shot up by 400 percent recently, especially if you're in public relationship at an organization. During recent events, the magazine developed a format that allowed it to explain the news and events taking place in places like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Wisconsin.
As Nieman Labs outlines, three million unique users visited the site — a 420 percent increase from February 2010’s numbers. And MotherJones.com posted 6.6 million pageviews overall — a 275 percent increase. In all, the mag estimates, a cumulative 29 percent of traffic to MotherJones.com came from social media sites. I'm thinking you would be happy with a fraction of that traffic.
The credit goes to context-based content created in a way that allowed entry points for the community interested in the topic, and created permission for the news organization. A win-win situation. The press is going more and more direct to readers.
Celebrities are doing the same with their fans. This past week, Charlie Sheen broke all the rules, got rid of both the press and PR, and went directly to his fans. He got himself a Ustream channel and will be taking advantage of real time live streaming. He already has an audience.
From defensive to proactive PR
Delivering reputation management and value requires shifting your stance from defensive to proactive public relations. Capitalizing on immediacy is not the same as putting out fires. A defensive strategy does include carefully scripted press releases.
What is Charlie Sheen doing? Instead of getting defensive and hiding behind a no comment wall, he's taking his story directly to his fans. By creating a channel of his own at a time when he is newsworthy, he's taking advantage of immediacy. Yes, comments are all over the map, yet by and large he is winning attention and getting his message out.
You would probably not do the same thing if one of the executives in your organization did something really bad. There is however a lesson in how Steve Jobs handles issues of that kind at Apple -- swift action is taken on the executive, the message focus remains the product(s).
Immediacy in topical news
If you're not planning a course of action to explain topical news and show your expertise, you're leaving money on the table. We now have plenty of examples of how it's done from news organizations, government agencies, and more.
- Andy Carvin has been sharing and curating news of the unrest in Egypt and Libya while vetting it in a public Twitter stream -- a modern correspondent representing himself and NPR
- Nick Kristof has been reporting directly to his fans on behalf of the New York Times
- Mother Jones has done some explaining for people interested in recent events -- quoting from the Nieman Lab's post, the news material catered to readers’ immediate need for context and understanding when it comes to complex, and time-sensitive, situations. The pages’ currency, in other words, is currency itself
- Nieman Lab is curating information about innovative ways to handle media and news
- CDC Emergency started a Twitter stream to inform the public about pandemic outbreaks and build tremendous value with micro updates -- you will see its follower count is now 1,248,295
- NYC MTA is doing really good work on encouraging an ecosystem around information to help riders with real time subway data
It goes beyond just offering advice during hurricane season if you're in business continuity. The real attention is in streaming information, adding commentary, having explainers on call, and making it a topic landing site with live transmission and interaction at scheduled times.
Make yourself and your organization explaining the news newsworthy.
PR as a revenue generating center
Step one, hire the right public relations candidates. Ability to write, listen and interview, as well as multimedia experience should be part of it. Step two, analyze what is trending in the news and who is writing and talking about it. Step three, determine primary and secondary audiences.
Step four, experiment with a couple of different formats, depending on how big the story potential is, and what entry points you will be able to create for your audience. You could find that:
- your customers prefer a closed news channel and you could create an email subscription
- prospects and channel partners like to see who's showing up to read and comment
- journalists and bloggers prefer to have ready-to-use assets, and access to people on the fly
- big news organizations like AP want the information boiled down to Reader's Digest format
And so on. By thinking about audiences, you bring third parties to the conversation stream. Much of the focus has been on information stock -- press releases and impressions. Now you need to shift focus on flow -- the elements that influence the rate of change in news and attention.
That's where the money is -- immediacy.
Take a look at the downstream opportunities you have with your organizations to establish topical pages, employ explainers, and take advantage of the immediacy of a situation to attract attention. Part of your plan should be how to keep that attention and transfer it, with permission, to other activities.
Next week, we'll talk about upstream opportunities for PR professionals.
I'm not advocating you copy Charlie Sheen, just take a look at the format. Could you work on a topical landing page for your industry, like Mother Jones did for news stories? What kinds of internal permissions do you need to get going to build that format?
Start right now. You could be riding the next news cycle from your own .com.