Friday, September 30, 2011

Insights from Our Partner in Japan

It’s a small world after all – but that doesn’t mean it’s a simple one.

For many companies, increasing globalization has brought with it increasing complexities of language and culture. Having people on the ground who are part of the culture in foreign markets is essential.

That’s why we’re pleased to bring you today’s post from TrainTracks Inc., our strategic marketing communications partner in Japan. As a fellow member of IPREX, a global network of independent public relations agencies, TrainTracks helps us understand and connect with audiences in a key Asian market.

Here are some recent insights from Ron Huber, a TrainTracks director.

Japan’s Media Landscape

It's been more than six months since the Great East Japan Earthquake. For the many victims of the disaster and the regions directly affected, the effects will continue to be felt for years. For the rest of the country, many struggles still remain, but for many businesses in Japan, the economic outlook appears more positive than initially expected. The general social atmosphere here has largely returned to its peculiar version of normalcy, and for international and global businesses exporting goods and services to Japan the high yen has created an ideal opportunity to grow their market share.

Due in part perhaps to this high yen, but more so because of our growing number of global PR partners, we at TrainTracks have seen a measurable increase in multinational client work. For new clients one of the most important tasks for us is always highlighting the unique characteristics of Japanese media. Every domestic market around the world will of course have key differences when dealing with the media, but Japan is the second-largest advertising and communications market in the world. Therefore it is especially important to recognize and adapt to these idiosyncrasies when planning your communications strategy for Japan.

There are two main aspects to the media landscape in Japan, the first being the way that journalists operate and the second being the ways each specific medium (newspapers, television, magazines, etc.) influence society. For part one of this two-part series let us have a look at the way journalists operate.

Just as with any country, journalists in Japan have their own particular way of doing business. The first aspect of this that our global clients are often exposed to when trying to attract media coverage is that there is tremendous pressure on the journalists to focus on domestic companies. To get past this as a foreign business, you need to localize the news and make the domestic relevance obvious to the target audience. This may involve something as simple as explaining how Japanese investors can utilize the information, but more often you need to explicitly explain how the news will impact Japanese businesses or the economy, even if it seems obvious.

Japanese journalists prefer in-person interviews, whether with the corporate spokesperson or with the agency representative. This means additional time, effort and costs that could be mitigated by phone interviews in markets where that is acceptable or the norm. On top of that most journalists will only do interviews in Japanese – even if they do know some English. In addition the media still prefers Japanese spokespeople even if a professional interpreter is used, so having a local spokesperson is crucial. Top tier executives like CEOs and CTOs from overseas are still welcomed and relatively easy to set up media interviews with, but unless they are willing to spend one week in Japan every month you are going to be missing out on many PR opportunities.

Finally, reporters here do not write articles solely based on press releases as often as they seem to do in other markets, and this is especially true when it comes to the most influential media. While this may also seem obvious to some, reporters like to find their own perspectives and almost always look for objective information based on their own research. This also means that if a press release relies on statistics or other figures, reporters here will often require them to be backed up by an independent third party before including them in an article. Another result of this tendency is that bylined articles (articles prepared by corporations but published as news) are quite uncommon in Japan.

Next month we will look at the media landscape from a publication and market perspective.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don’t Just Earn Media. Earn Attention.

Back in the day, your target audiences’ main sources of information were dominated by traditional and trade media. It made sense to focus on gaining coverage, or “earned media,” in those outlets.

But in the increasingly interconnected world of social media, the middle man is disappearing. Your customers and prospects go to Twitter and Facebook for news, reviews, suggestions and promotions.

The good news is that you can connect directly with them in these realms. But that doesn’t mean they’ll pay attention – too many choices, too little time. That’s why building brands is no longer just about earned media, but about “earned attention.”

In “Why ‘Earned Attention’ is a Social Media Objective,” (subscription needed) author Deborah Budd highlights the need to tap into target audiences’ emotions, grabbing their attention and generating conversations. The key is to consider what you can contribute to your audiences – customers, partners, employees, industry members – via social media:
  • Share content and commentary about industry trends and best practices.
  • Highlight what your business offers in the context of these conversations.
  • Provide thoughtful updates, such as customer successes, that include a call to action.
  • Show your lighter side, which helps to strengthen connections and build loyalty.
In the process, you’ll build trust, demonstrate thought leadership, and position yourself as a valuable partner in an increasingly crowded marketplace. And the attention you earn will flourish, as your audiences become your advocates, disseminating your messages throughout their networks.

What do you think are challenges faced by B2B marketers seeking earned attention, and what advice would you have to achieve this important new objective?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

3 Reasons Why Your Website Needs a Newsroom

Years ago, maybe your company could have managed without an online newsroom – a home base for releases, media coverage, byline articles, event information, team biographies, fact sheets, media contacts, images, logos, etc.

But in the information age, it pays to make as much information as possible available and easy to find.

Here are the top 3 reasons an online newsroom is a smart investment and a crucial component of a successful marketing communications strategy.

Reason #1: Real-time reporting and shrinking staff.

At a time when overburdened media members are facing tighter deadlines than ever, if you don’t make information easily and quickly accessible, guess where reporters, editors or even potential customers are going to go for the information they seek?

A well-developed and populated newsroom turns browsing media into interested publishers who are more likely to tell your story than that of your competitors.

Reason #2: Digital distribution and re-purposing of content.

Remember that release that you wrote, that earned you an interview, which you videotaped and then edited, that you put on your YouTube channel and then announced on multiple social networks?

Well, where is all of that content now? What return is it earning you if no one can find it? All of that owned content should live right there on your newsroom.

• Integrated into social media feeds
• Linked to your blog
• Archived in your releases

Reason #3: Search engines love them.

Search engine spiders are out there crawling for fresh, valuable content. And that’s just what an online newsroom gives them. Quality content built around industry keywords is your ticket to a major traffic spike.

A newsroom also can increase your online real estate – meaning you have more unique pages for search engines to index, increasing the likelihood you’ll be found in search queries.

In a future post, we’ll look at the key components of a successful online newsroom. In the meantime, here’s a pretty good example to shoot for: InsideSH News..

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Dos and Don’ts of Successful Blogger Relations

Like it or not, bloggers are a force to be reckoned with in your PR efforts. But these aren’t your father’s journalists; they must be approached in a different way.

With that in mind, the PRSA Southeastern Wisconsin chapter focused its August luncheon on “Blogger Relations for Dummies (and PR Pros).” Blogger panelists Jon Mueller (@jonmueller) of, Nick Chipman (@DudeFoods) of, and Heather Blessington (@mamaVISION) of shared insights from their interactions with PR pros.

To recap, we’ve outlined a few of the key takeaways:

Research, research, research – Rather than crafting the “perfect” pitch, spend more time researching the blogger(s) you’re targeting. What’s the focus of their blog and who is their audience? Read a few of the posts to get a sense of their writing style, and more importantly, learn about their passion(s).
Make a real connection – Bloggers have a platform and a passion for what they do, so tap into their interests. Point to a specific post you’ve read. Why did it grab your attention?
Be selective – Narrow down your list for blogger outreach. Select key bloggers who are influential to your target audience.

Be generic – Personalize your communication. “Dear Blogger …” doesn’t encourage anyone to learn more about your client or its product/service. Simply put, don’t take a cut-and-paste approach. Would you want to help someone who didn’t take the time to learn your name?
Beat around the bush – Identify what you’re looking for up front. Plant a seed. Collaborate with bloggers to share your story.
Use industry jargon – Talk to them like a regular person. For most, blogging isn’t their full-time job; they’re also business savvy and know the usual promotion lingo, so don’t invite them to be a “brand ambassador.” It won’t work.

Want to learn more? A video post is now available on the PRSA SE WI blog at:

Is blogger outreach part of your media relations program? What advice would you give to fellow professionals?