Category Archives: Content Publishing

Don’t Forsake Archives for Ephemeral Content

(Note: This post originally appeared on the PNConnect blog)

There’s a thought-provoking post by Melody Kramer at Poynter today about news organization and ephemeral content. Specifically she’s addressing the question of how – or if – those media companies can or should be archiving the posts they’re publishing to services like Facebook through Instant Articles and Snapchat, in some cases through Discover. Even more minute than that, how are news organizations capturing and keeping the captions they put on a Facebook photo, or the copy in a Tweet that links to an on-domain story?Image via Wikimedia https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/93/Fondos_archivo.jpgAs usual, many of the questions and issues that are asked and raised here about the news world also has implications and applications to the world of brand publishing.

Similar to how news organizations have to, brand publishers have to walk the line between accomplishing a number of goals. We certainly want the brands we work with to be adjusting to market trends and right now there’s no bigger trend than off-domain publishing. Again, Facebook Instant Articles and Snapchat Discover are leading this trend, though Twitter certainly wants you to do as much organically on their network as possible and YouTube, in addition to being a great video archive, is essentially an off-domain tool where you can host a self-contained presence.

Interestingly, as I’m writing this the story popped the Reported.ly, a new news organization that at first embraced an approach of going completely native on social networks, has launched a website. The reason? To add context, allow for bigger-picture views and act as an archive. In other words, everything that a website should do.

This is a line we walk ourselves as counselors to our clients whose publishing programs we advise on. We know what works – the hub-and-spoke strategy that focuses on owned content being published on-domain and distributed to managed channels – but also want to make sure our clients are going where the audience is and that audience is increasingly living and reading within apps and social networks.

There aren’t the same concerns for brands that media organizations have. Corporate blogs aren’t going to be the paper of record, but those archives do have historical value. There may also be regulatory considerations that mean a brand *has* to be archiving all communications.

Finally, there’s tremendous value in having an archive of content to pull from to combat content decay. The only channel that’s future-proof is the one you control. It’s a bit hyperbolic, but Facebook could disappear next year. Snapchat could fold. Vine could be shuttered. And are you comfortable playing the odds that before they go away that they’ll make sure you can download an archive of everything – posts, comments, engagement and so on – you’ve done over your time there?

Owned Channels The Only Port in Shifting Media Seas

(This post originally appeared on Voce Nation)

Vox Media bought Re/code, which stars Walt Mossberg, Kara Swisher and a host of others and which spun off from All Things D, a Wall Street Journal-hosted blog.

GigaOm might be coming back after Knowingly recently purchased the domain name and archives of the site, though since its writers have scattered (most of them to Fortune), it’s unclear who’s going to writing new stuff.

Verizon recently bought Aol, including the latter’s portfolio of news and editorial sites, though the future of Huffington Post is reportedly up in the air as everyone figures out what they want to do and where they are or aren’t comfortable.

In short, the online media world is up for grabs and more than a little unstable. If you’re in PR, the journalist you’ve worked with for years may be gone tomorrow, either off to a new publication or completely out of a job. And, as we’ve seen, the site that has previously covered your client’s news regularly may disappear altogether with little notice.

Instability is nothing new for media. The difference these days is there’s an alternative: Owned channels.

If the constant stream of site closures, journalist changes and related activities has you unsure of how your earned media efforts are going to work it may be time to instead evaluate if what you’re doing on-domain and on managed channels is working and how you can use those to more effectively reach the audience you’re looking for.

This is not to knock in any way practices like press outreach. Even in a world of owned media channels there’s still an essential role for the outside press. But we’re moving deeper and deeper into a world where companies are getting their message out to both press and consumers directly. Our list of past and present clients is filled with examples of both.

If you want to learn how to best mix earned and owned media (along with paid and shared, of course), drop us a line.

Approval Buttons Are No Substitute for Approval Workflows

What Is It: Tweetdeck yesterday unveiled it’s added a confirmation step allowing users to setup a workflow that means someone could not send a Tweet without another person approving it. This is not unusual and is a common feature for many other CMS platforms.

What Does This Mean: This is meant to help prevent Tweets being sent that are…regrettable. Things like someone publishing a personal update from a corporate account, or making a really bad joke that you think is funny but someone else is going to realize is in poor taste.

This sort of technical insurance is great, of course, but it’s only part of the equation. Any sort of social publishing program should have layers of approval that are worked out well ahead of when any individual Tweet or other update goes out. Build a process that takes into account any stakeholders who need to see a piece of content and insures they are seeing it before it goes live. In addition to that, create a workflow that makes sure any post should pass through at least two hands (or sets of eyes) before it even makes it into the CMS.

Essentially, if the only time content is being approved by a second person is right before it gets queued in the CMS then you’re putting yourself into a precarious position alright. That should, ideally, be the final step in an approval process that everyone is aware of, good with and part of.

Comment policy tips

This is my latest post for PNConnect. Read it here.

More and more media companies are eliminating comments from their sites, as they realize they lack the resources for effective moderation and that much of the worthwhile conversation has moved to social networks. Others have installed Facebook or other external comment tools so they don’t have to host an infrastructure themselves. But no matter where interactions take place, every publisher needs an effective and publicly accessible comment moderation policy in place. If a brand is going to be its own publisher and start a conversation, it should be prepared to host and manage the resulting discussion.

Wordpress-Adds-Facebook-Twitter-LoginsA comment policy’s goal is simple: To inform everyone, openly and clearly, what the rules are for polite discourse. Here are our guidelines for the key areas to cover.

RULES FOR COMMENT TOPICS

Every blog and social channel profile has a specific content focus, whether it’s a brand, a product, or some other topic. Some profiles are scaled to deal with customer service issues while others restrict themselves to promotional content. However, the audience doesn’t always know or care about this distinction. People will naturally find their way to your profile with a question that should be directed elsewhere, and it’s your job to clear up the confusion and redirect them. This begins with clarifying, upfront, what topics comment responses will address, and how off-topic comments will be handled.

Sample copy:

This Facebook page is about news and updates relating to ACME Corporation. Please do not leave customer service questions in the comments as such comments will be removed and forwarded to the customer service department, which can be reached at 800-555-5555 or companysite.com.

POLICY FOR COMMENT DELETION

Alongside topic guidelines, specify when and why you’ll delete visitor comments.

There are three common reasons a comment would need to be deleted:

1. It’s rude or insulting: Everyone knows that comments can devolve into name-calling, personal attacks and more pretty quickly. (We’re looking at you, YouTube.) Specify upfront that this is out of bounds.

2. It’s spam: Comment sections sometimes fill up quickly with accounts promoting themselves, selling mail-order medication, or sharing get-rich-quickly schemes.

3. It’s threatening: Occasionally, a comment will cross the line from annoying to actually concerning — for instance, threatening a company executive.

Sample copy:

We reserve the right to remove any comment that violates this policy because it uses vulgar, illegal or inappropriate language; is threatening or defamatory of ACME Corporation, its executives, or its customers or invades their privacy in any way; infringes on the intellectual property rights of ACME Corporation; or contains links or messages relating to political campaigning, commercial solicitation, chain letters, or other inappropriate material or topics.

GETTING POSITIVE

The ultimate objective is to move from the negative (moderating and removing comments) to the positive (fostering productive conversation) in your channels’ comments sections. Here are the key ingredients to maintaining the right tone:

  • Moderate comments effectively and consistently. A healthy garden is a well-tended garden. Set a regular schedule for comment review and stick to it.
  • Assign an owner. Someone should be running point on vetting inbound comments and directing them to whoever can respond most effectively.
  • Create a response workflow, including a manager and response teams. Know who is responsible for vetting comments, who that manager is assigning comment responses to, and what the expectations for turnaround are.
  • Encourage individual writers to monitor comments on their posts for the first 24 hours. This can help the writers learn more about the responses to their posts and about common questions or areas of interest.

Turning Strategies Into Tactics

Goals beget strategies beget tactics beget metrics. That’s the simple path most communicators – and most everyone else as well – go down when working on their program planning. Sometimes the hardest gap, to bridge though, is the one between strategies and tactics since too many people too often get them confused. So here’s an example of just how different they are.

“Pictures get great engagement on social media” is, at this point, an accepted truism. Study after study shows that posts with pictures perform much better all around and indeed entire social networks like Pinterest and Instagram are built completely around them. So you see all sorts of media organizations doing just that. “Post pictures” then is the strategy. But look how Fast Company has turned that into a tactic.

That image isn’t included in the story that’s linked to. It’s custom made for usage on Twitter. They’ve taken the broad strategy of “post pictures in Tweets” and made it very specific, using specific images that are tied to the story. These always pop out in my feed because it’s not just a generic image, it’s something that’s a lot more interesting and, therefore, more engaging.

I don’t have access to Fast Company’s metrics and so can’t say for certain that they are or aren’t working. And it’s always dangerous to say “well I think it’s interesting so everyone else will too.” But independent of specifics this provides a good example of how to follow best practices, adopt a strategy and then define tactics that support and are in line with both.

Learning the Language of Emojis

You’ve always heard that it’s easier for kids to learn non-native languages, apparently because the pathways in their brains are still forming, making it easier for them to absorb all this information. That’s why you see parents pushing their kindergarteners to enroll in language classes and speaking something you probably don’t recognize in the grocery store aisle.

In 2015 a lot of old people – and by “old” I mean anyone over 30, including myself – are suddenly finding ourselves needing to learn a new language: Emojis. Emoji usage is everywhere. Not only is it a standard in any text you’ve received in the last two years but Instagram now supports it, Star Wars worked with Twitter to roll out custom emojis in Tweets a couple weeks ago and…well…it’s essentially all over the place. At this point it’s harder to find a social network that doesn’t support emojis than vice versa.

image via tumblr
image via tumblr

This represents yet another skill for those for whom this doesn’t come naturally – for whom it represents what amounts to a foreign language – to learn. While it’s never a good idea to, when managing a corporate publishing program, go too far into internet-native speak (I’m looking at everyone who’s used “on fleek” in a brand Tweet) it can be something that, used judiciously, adds color and personality to a program. It’s so easy to speak either in the most boring, dry tone or to lapse into inauthentic marketing-speak, and interjecting emojis, frequently-used acronyms and so on can add some flavor. But it’s important to not just learn *what* to do but “why” and “when” as well. So it’s not just a a skill it is, like many things, an art as well.

Secret and the Risk of Chasing Shiny Objects

News broke the other day that Secret, the anonymous sharing app, would be or is or has (the details are fuzzy) shut down. The site was just a year old – a veritable newborn when measured anywhere outside of Silicon Valley. Suffering from a user exodus and what seems to be an unclear vision of what the app should be about, the founders and others decided to exit the game rather than continue on what appears to be seen as a losing battle.

We’re often asked how soon clients should jump into any of the new apps or social networks that launch on a regular basis. Secret’s fall from the mountain top of buzz, something it achieved by being an outlet for the tech world’s secrets, serves as a reminder that these startups can disappear at any moment. You can build a strategy, you can source content and establish a workflow, but tomorrow the rug could be pulled out because the company decided running the product no longer made sense, ran out of money or any other reason.

Even the most stable of these networks brands are using to reach people – sites like Facebook or Twitter – are essentially sand castles, only as stable as the people around them are careful and subject to the whims of nature or, in this case, market forces. That’s why we recommend not only being careful about jumping in, making sure it actually makes sense to establish a presence there, but also making sure one network isn’t seen as a single source of salvation (read: traffic) and therefore isn’t at risk of becoming a single point of failure.