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TODD SMITH'S SPIN CYCLE: Turn your content, data into compelling news

Todd Smith

Todd Smith

One of the best PR tools in today’s fast-paced, 24-7 news cycle world is including numbers in your media pitch to attract journalist attention.

Case in point: over the holidays, New York Post business reporter John Crudele published an article sarcastically “gifting” coverage to a select handful of PR peeps whose pitches had originally gone unanswered. Why these pitches were unsuccessful is explored in-depth on the Bad Pitch Blog, but a common thread among them was using – and assuming – an unusual statistic or trend was enough to get Crudele’s attention.

As evidenced by Crudele’s blunt reaction, numbers alone aren’t enough to get media coverage. What journalists are really looking for is the story behind the number that is relevant to their beat and the interests of their readers.

Knowing what makes a good story and how to find that story for your brand can help you refine your media pitches and engage customers more successfully. The following tips from storytelling experts Rachel Zarrell, reporter and weekend editor of Buzzfeed, Ginny Pulos, founder and president of  Ginny Pulos Communications, Inc., and Marcia Stepanek, president and founder of Brand Stories, can help brands uncover the stories within their business that connect to customers.

Answer the “so what?”

According to Pulos, a good story is:

» Brief

» True

» Engages an emotion

» Ends on a high point

» Is told in the present tense

In a nutshell, the story must get to the heart of why people will care.

Use nut graphs

As defined by The Poynter Institute, the purpose of a nut graphs is to “tell the reader what the writer is up to; it delivers a promise of the story’s content and message.”

Pulos suggests using nut graphs as an exercise in how to tell your business story effectively and concisely to journalists.

“I was on a panel about social media and learned that a company’s about page should have a two-line description, 50-word description, and a longer piece. This way if a journalist needs to grab something or tweet about you, they have something short they can use, something longer they can use if you are a speaker at an event, and a full-length description for your clients,” she says.

Incorporate figurative language

Pulos also recommends using metaphors to tell a story and refers to the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs as an example of a great storyteller who coined the phrase that an iPhone is “a life in your pocket.”

At Buzzfeed, Zarrell reveals that hyperbolic words such as heartbreaking, heartwarming, awesome, amazing tend to attract the most clicks.

Visualize your story

“I won’t write anything that doesn’t have a visual element to it. When I am creating a story, I build it around the visual,” said Zarrell, “The way we narrate things around the visuals when telling a story is getting to the thing people care about very quickly, because people don’t want to waste their time.”

Stepanek agrees, arguing that visuals are “the fastest way to get an emotional impact along with information,” as well as proving the credibility of a story with tangible evidence.

For B2B companies with intangible products, videos and infographics are an opportunity to measure impact or prove that the company is able to do what it says it’s doing.

Stepanek predicts that the next phase of the media evolution will be to measure content based on how a video or story emotionally moves an audience.

Bottom line?

Numbers are just numbers, and they aren’t always easy to remember in the first place. What journalists – and their audiences – will remember in the end is how your story made them feel.

Facebook is changing the way advertisers look at social

Facebook is expanding its latest effort to attract advertisers: A better way to track how an ad on the site influences a customer’s purchase in the real world.

A year ago, the company unveiled a tool that helped advertisers determine whether someone who bought a product had been shown an ad on Facebook beforehand. The company on Tuesday said it is making the tool available to more advertisers around the globe, and automating many of its functions.

The idea is simple: There are customers who are influenced by an ad but wait to purchase a product later on. So Facebook built a tool to measure it by comparing databases of people who purchased products with those who did or didn’t see an ad on Facebook.

The tool is just the latest effort by the world’s largest social network to change how advertisers look at the effectiveness of its service and, ultimately, justify charging higher fees for online ads. Facebook is attempting to draw a more direct line between its ads and when a consumer buys a product, even if the person doesn’t necessarily click on the link.

Brad Smallwood, who runs marketing science and measurement at Facebook, said his goal is to help advertisers track how ads influence behavior over time.

Facebook’s evolving ad strategy

What’s next for Facebook?

» With Atlas, Facebook advertisers can follow you around the Web.

» Your Facebook News Feed is about to have fewer ads.

» Candy Crush is taking over your Facebook feed — again.

“It’s not a Facebook challenge, it’s an industry challenge,” he recently told c|net.

Much of the way advertising works on the Internet is that advertisers pay money either if someone sees an ad, clicks on an ad, or if they purchase a product after clicking on an ad.

The problem for Facebook is advertisers typically pay more when a customer clicks. Facebook made 64 cents every time a user clicked on an ad at the end of last year, according to a survey by advertising automation software maker Nanigans. By comparison, it took about 145 people who see but don’t click on an ad to make that same 64 cents.

The Internet is expected to have accounted for about 25 percent of global advertising last year, according to industry researcher eMarketer, even though US adults spend nearly half their day on Internet-connected devices.

The way Facebook’s tool works is that advertisers send it a database of customers who bought something. That information is randomized and compared to a list of users who did or did not see an ad. The result is data that could show advertising on Facebook helped encourage users to buy a product.

Facebook isn’t the only company attempting to connect advertising in the digital and real worlds. Others, including market researchers and Internet behemoths alike, have built services hoping to track similar behavior

Super Mic | Puppies, dads & pop icons are runaway Super Bowl victors

The Super Bowl was down to the wire with excitement as the New England Patriots eked out a thrilling, roller-coaster ending. The commercials were also packed with excitement, thrills and heartstring moments, proving the ad adage that animal, children and nostalgia sells!

Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” spot was the runaway Super Bowl champ, followed by ads that featured children and Dads – Toyota, and its Daddy – Daughter milestones nod and Nissan’s “With Dad” spot. The Spin Cycle also loved the McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin’,” Coca-Cola’s “Make it Happy” and Snickers “Very Brady” spots. And you gotta love Fiat’s “Blue Pill” commercial! This week’s Golden Mic goes to these creative, pithy – and superb – Super Bowl ads.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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