Category Archives: Content Publishing

Howl and the Premium User Experience

Even newer from me on Voce Nation:

…there are a few things this app gets right and which point to the importance of owning your distribution points. Anyone can go to iTunes and subscribe to any of these podcasts at no charge. And for many that will be fine. But there’s a hardcore group of fans who want more and will gladly pay that $5 a month for access to get more from their favorite shows or the ability to experiment and try out things they otherwise wouldn’t have come across.

via Howl’s Podcast App an Interesting Experiment in Providing a Premium Experience « Voce Communications.

The Double Standard for Suspending Social Media Publishing

It’s a given among social media leaders and practitioners that when tragedy strikes we hold on social media publishing. No one wants the brand they manage to be the one selling movies or mac ‘n’ cheese or anything else in the middle of an unfolding incident. So as soon as that CNN alert hit our phones, the tweets start pouring in or we hear/see on the news that there’s a bombing in Boston, a shooting at a school or anything else we push the pause button and wait for things to die down before resuming. But this is almost exclusively focused on large, single and unusual incidents and this approach ignores the everyday violence that too many people in the U.S., much less countries across the world, have to deal with. 

Over the 4th of July weekend 54 people were shot and wounded in Chicago while 10 were killed by gunfire. But no one stopped publishing their sales, promotions and deals on Twitter. People were asked to buy or read about toys, gadgets and recipes, just as they usually are. It’s an interesting bit of hypocrisy and one that mirrors the 24-hour news channels. What it shows is that for all the talk about brands – and the people behind them – being sensitive to tragedy, what they’re actually reacting to are a subset of tragedies that are 1) Concentrated and 2) Unusual. And while last month’s horrific and tragic shooting of parishioners and clergy at a South Carolina church in a matter of moments fits both those criteria, the same number of people being killed over the course of two or three days in Chicago does not. 

Let me be clear that I’m not saying one is worse than the other. That’s not the case at all. But we can see that one passes the test while the other does not. 

Concentrated: The kinds of things that result in the decision to suspend social brand publishing usually happen in a matter of moments. It’s a single incident like the Boston Marathon bombing that has long-term repercussions. Or it’s an evolving situation like a school shooting that can unfold over the course of hours. But it’s there. There’s a distinct time where it is and isn’t happening. A weekend of shootings in Chicago, though, happens slowly, over the course of 48 or 72 hours. 10 people weren’t killed in a single house in a single moment. They were killed over time, something that makes their deaths less worthy, it seems, of respect and silence. 

Unusual: Let’s be honest: We don’t expect a shooting in a small Southern church. But, no matter how racially and culturally sensitive we claim to be, gun violence on the south side of Chicago probably doesn’t surprise us much. While we may be individually appalled by it, there’s a heavy lack of shock about the latter incident that results in most social media brand managers not even considering that this might rise to the level of needing to take a respectful pause on the hard-sell to their online audience. 

Again, I’m not advocating that brands *not* suspend publishing in the wake of tragic incidents. What I am saying is that we need to be honest about how the rules are not hard and fast. We operate using a double standard that labels some moments as rising to a higher level of importance than others. Keep that in mind the next time you pat yourself on the back for your sensitivity. 

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 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, 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.


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


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.


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.