Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Posts Tagged ‘blog’

Social Tuesday: Social media boosts fame, helps in crisis

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 10, 2011

Social media and fashion are apparently a match made in heaven. Social media devices like live streaming, Facebook pages, blogs and videos fuel online discussions on brands and designers and result in thousands of new fans and followers. Curve ID jeans, for instance, “cheekily” uses YouTube to demonstrate their product’s effectiveness. Result: Nearly seven million views. Bebe’s new blog earned the fashion brand 66,428 new fans and a sixth-place ranking on fans and followers-surveying Victoria’s Secret invites brides to view – and purchase – the new collection of whites at an online shop, resulting in 69,000 new fans. And Burberry’s fashion show live stream attracted more than 100,000 fans. First place on Famecount goes to Converse, with more than 175,000 new fans. not only lets visitors watch videos or shop online, they can also create their own sneakers. Together with its All Star sneaker line, Converse to date has 23 million + fans.

Finding lost persons is the idea behind Google’s Person Finder. Originally created with the U.S. Department of State to find lost persons in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, the website is presently used to help victims of the Christchurch Earthquake. The Person Finder can be found on a website launched by New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission. The site further features reports, videos and information on accommodation, alerts and volunteers. Its users can easily submit important information via Twitter.

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BlogWorld observations

Posted by thecastlegroup on November 1, 2010

Castle VP Hilary Allard was a panelist at last month’s BlogWorld. Below are her observations from the event.

I was honored to be asked to present on a PR panel at last month’s BlogWorld event, a blogging and social media conference that attracts more than 3,500 people. There were many inspiring, thought-provoking and surprising insights shared about how the intersection of technology and communication has changed our world.

Here are a few observations from the event:

The impact that technology and social media has made on the lives of military members and their families is profound. In a video introduction, General Petraeus spoke of how the ability to communicate with their families via Facebook, email and Skype has helped military members through the challenges of their separation. A website,, provides troops with a place to share their look at Army life. Here’s a post on the site about the Army experience at BlogWorld.

While thought leaders have high-level discussions about social media and the future of communications, the fact is that many individuals – and organizations – don’t know what to do or where to start. The prospect of adding to already full to-do lists is daunting. (More on that in this space at another time.)

Everyone is willing to share. Just as I experienced during the TechMunch summer event in New York, media, brands and bloggers are all willing to share their experience, insights and challenges, putting the “social” in social media. It’s no longer “us against them,” it’s “we’re all in this together.”

Social media has given everyone a voice – and they’re not afraid to use it. Audience members politely yet aggressively (“Pardon me for saying so…”) challenged well-known speakers during one keynote session on politics. My favorite was an elderly woman who stood up and talked about her blogging and participation on Twitter. She clearly was energized by this aspect of her life and the new doors it had opened for her.

Are you involved in social media? If so, has it changed your life, personally or professionally? If not, what obstacles are in your way that are preventing you from engaging online?

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Bloggers and privacy

Posted by thecastlegroup on August 17, 2010

Castle VP Hilary Allard writes this week about a recent privacy issue in the blogosphere.

I was intrigued last week by a tweet from a blogger who objected to a journalist’s use of a database to find her number and call her for an interview.

While she said she was happy to talk with journalists, she only wants to be contacted by email.  Her position met with some pro/con feedback from both sides of the fence.

In her case, she had important, valid and personal reasons for her privacy concerns, but the journalist in question could not have known in advance about the blogger’s privacy issues. The reporter was  just doing her job.

This raises a number of important points for consideration about journalism, blogging and media relations:

  1. Journalists, like everyone, are busy, now more so than ever. Due to abundant layoffs in the media, journalists often have expanded job duties with participation in social media, blogging and live updates to their stories online, in addition to their regular assignments. It’s their job to talk to people and get information. If journalists think that they are going to send an email into a black hole of a “contact us” form, they will feel that they won’t get the information they need on time (or at all). See this PRNewser article on the frustrations of a writer who tried to contact Clinique through its corporate website. During a June blogger event in New York where I spoke on a PR panel, an established journalist who writes for both top-tier print and online made it clear that he wants contact phone numbers to be readily available on blogs so that he can reach people within his deadlines.
  2. When you put yourself out there as someone with something to say on your blog, people (hopefully) are going to want to talk to you.  If someone is trying to find, and use, your phone number for unscrupulous reasons, that’s one thing.  But an interview?  Be happy they wanted to talk with you. In the end, you know the article is only going to boost your traffic.
  3. Calling out a journalist online isn’t a great way to make friends in the media. Despite our age of transparency, some things (both personal and professional), can/must/should stay off-line. Again, the writer could not have known in advance about the blogger’s privacy concerns.
  4. There is an endless debate over whether bloggers are journalists.  Maybe some day we’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, my take on it – if you are going make a living as a writer (in a public way) and attend press events, etc. then you need to live with the phone calls. 

(P.S. – For the sake of being completely transparent, in addition to contributing to Castle’s blog, I also write my own personal food blog. I do not monetize my blog, nor do I attend press events, accept samples or the like. It is a hobby and place for me to share recipes and thoughts about all things food.)

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Social Tuesday: search, blog, e-mail, NutshellMail

Posted by thecastlegroup on December 2, 2009

What is the best way to get ranked in the search engines? Should you simply repeat a key term over and over again? This tactic may initially drive traffic to the site, but if the content is not interesting or relevant, readers driven to your site via search will not be back. So what’s the key to striking a healthy balance? Joseph Kiefer offers his advice.

“What goes around comes around” is a saying that most of us know and use when describing karmic situations. This credo, according to Brian Solis, is “the undercurrent of social media and the currency of the social economy.” A retweet on Twitter, a “like” on Facebook or any type of “following,” are ways to show support, and in return increase your opportunity to receive reciprocal recognition.

Why should a company blog? At Castle, we have found that our blog is a great way to share client news, internal updates, thoughts on social media, PR, events, and really just about anything that’s on our minds (and we mean anything: please see our blog posting on the game show “Wipeout”). Blogging allows you to connect in a different way by using a more conversational tone, thus humanizing your brand. In case you needed yet another reason why you should be blogging, check out B.L. Ochman’s blog.

Although Twitter and Facebook continue to grow, neither site has bumped e-mail from its #1 ranking to communicate and share information. So how do you keep from neglecting these sites while never leaving your inbox? NutshellMail is a new service that sends Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace updates right to your email. In a nutshell (sorry, we couldn’t resist), it’s a huge time saver and a great way to organize and manage your different social media pages.

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Social Tuesday: Twitter, Thoora, blogs

Posted by thecastlegroup on October 27, 2009

In an increasingly digital world, success is more relationship-driven than numbers-driven. But when you’re interacting virtually, how do you create real connections? From creating custom Twitter backgrounds to choosing interesting topics for conversation, success lies in the personal details.

Research on Twitter trends is emerging. One of these trends, retweeting, is a way to share/forward information that you find useful and interesting from a fellow poster, and serves to validate the original twitterer. If you believe you are putting out great content, but are disappointed with the amount of times you get retweeted, it could be that you are simply “LOL’ing” too much. Read Brian Solis’s posting here.

Get all your media news, social and traditional, in one place: that’s what Thoora is aiming to offer consumers. Thoora recently publicly launched their free service that offers their perspective on breaking news based on Twitter, 81 million blogs and 4,500 traditional media sources. Check out Andy Merrett’s take on the new service.

If you are a novice blogger and are questioning your site’s success, you’re not alone: most blogs don’t live to see six months. Although people measure blog success differently –  ad revenue, visitors, reader retention – you may be looking for a basic way to gauge how you’re doing. Darren Rowse helps keep you and your blog on the right track.

Common sense might tell you that the more you tweet, the more link click-throughs you are going to get. But think about it: on Twitter, most people can only read a fraction of their friends’ total activity and all of those fantastic links that you’re trying to share may be getting lost in the Twitter avalanche. So what is an avid link-sharer to do? Dan Zarella advises you to tweet less.

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Blogs: content, design and contact

Posted by thecastlegroup on August 10, 2009

We asked our summer PR intern, Emily Grund, to write a weekly column talking about her internship experience at The Castle Group. Please read Emily’s posts on Mondays to hear about her latest intern adventures. This week, Emily discusses her blog research projects. Is your blog PR-friendly?

Building relationships with bloggers is vital for PR professionals as readers turn to trusted bloggers for news and information. One of my regular duties as an intern at The Castle Group is to search for bloggers that might be relevant to Castle’s clients.

From mom blogs to finance blogs to travel blogs, I have scanned hundreds over the past couple of months. Below, I discuss my perspective of criteria the PR world should consider when determining to which blogs to interact with, and how bloggers can appeal to the PR community.

Content: Like researching any other publication, it is important to make sure the content of the blog is relevant for a PR pitch. Even within a category of blogs, such as mom blogs, topics range immensely. For example, some moms write about family development, while others write product reviews or money-saving tips. Reaching out to the right people is vital, as bloggers communicate with each other and will let others know whom to trust and to ignore.

And if bloggers are looking for suggestions to be more PR-friendly, keeping your blog focused on a specific topic will help you get relevant information as well as steady readers. For instance, if you’re a travel blogger, instead of covering the vast amount of information there is to cover about travel, pick a topic you are interested and knowledgeable in, such as finding good travel deals. Of course some bloggers are very successful at juggling a range of different subjects, which leads me to the importance of design.

Design:Finding blogs that are easy to navigate can say a lot about the blogger running the site. Knowing that they take the time to update frequently and keep their information organized is a good sign. Generally, blogs with thoughtful designs have more readers, so even if their readership numbers aren’t available there’s a good chance they have loyal fans.

Separating blog posts into different categories makes it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for. For example, if you’re a finance blogger that focuses on credit cards, break your blog down into categories such as interest rates, credit scores and payment tips. Or if you’re a finance blogger that writes about a range of diverse topics, break it down to investing, taxes and insurance. Without categories, readers need to search through pages of content to find a specific topic.

Another issue I’ve noticed is page length, both for blog posts and the actual page itself. Blog posts, I’ve learned, should usually be no longer than 1,000 words. Even that’s pushing it. Blogs need to be spaced well, and bullets and bold points are good ways to keep readers focused. Some sites I’ve seen have a large scroll bar and keep many posts on the front page. This is distracting and should generally be no more than four blog posts long.

One important factor about design brings me to my last point: If you want to be contacted with new ideas make sure your contact information is accessible!

Contact:Reaching out to bloggers, just like you would reporters, is the best way to begin to build a relationship. Contacting a specific person is always better than writing to a general inquiry form since you can deliver a personalized message to start a conversation.

The most common obstacle I have found when searching blogs is trying to get in touch with the blogger. Some have contact forms, but those are not ideal. If you’re a blogger that wants contact with PR professionals, create a place on your blog that has your name and e-mail, plus grant permission to contact to the PR community. Some bloggers have this information but it is so hidden it takes a lot of digging to find it. Going back to design, having a section that discusses what you’d like to be contacted about and how gives you a better chance of getting the information and contacts you want.

Doing these searches for blogs has exposed me to all kinds of content, designs and bloggers. It is easier for me to pick out blogs that work for Castle and those that do not, and why. In some cases it is easy to tell whether or not the blogger wants contact from PR but in other cases it’s vague. For those that want relationships with PR professionals but don’t know how to acquire them, the tips above may help you get what you want.

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Meetings industry leadership speaks out

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 11, 2009

Bill Marriott blogs honestly about the economic impact on the meetings industry, how it affects his hotel, and his support of the U.S. Travel Association’s meetings guidelines and the “Meetings Mean Business” campaign.


And here, Mitchell Beer speaks to the Kerry legislation, revamping the types of incentives provided, and ideas to address the industry’s problems.

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