Archive for February, 2013

The Plight of Electronic Engineering Times and Other Niche Publications

EE Times, PR, Public Relations, business communications, storytelling, PR storytelling, business storytelling, The Hoffman Agency, journalism, publications

Word has circulated through the grapevine that EE Times has experienced yet another staff reduction.

At least the move comes at a time when companies including those in the semiconductor industry have got the content marketing religion. For journalists open to exploring gigs outside the traditional media, they’ll find options.

But what about EE Times?

What’s the economic prognosis for the book?

If I can sum it up one word, notsogood.

I hate saying this because I’m a fan of EE Times and the journalists who have put their hearts and souls into building a quality product.

Roughly 18 months ago Junko Yoshida, EIC at the time, was good enough to speak at one of our Silicon Valley Lunch Buckets about the publication’s change of direction to cultivate a greater sense of community. She shared the chart below which showed that reader engagement was trending in the right direction.

EE Times, PR, Public Relations, business communications, storytelling, PR storytelling, business storytelling, The Hoffman Agency, journalism, publications

But the publication never seemed to get over the hump financially, even though it’s still viewed today as the No. 1 media property by most engineers.

We all recognize the Internet has swung a wrecking ball through the publishing industry sending the carnage every which way.

Yet, new media properties are surfacing on a regular basis, some achieving economic viability in a relatively short period of time.

What gives, and why hasn’t EE Times been able to capitalize on Internet economics?

I have a theory.

When the audience skews to an under-35 demographic, there’s a Web-savvy publisher applying clever ways to engage and make money. I’m not just talking about properties focused on social media and startups like TechCrunch. The same dynamic also plays out in seemingly niche areas as well.

Take Lifehacker, which appeals to the inner geek.

70 percent of Lifehacker’s 4 million readers sit between 18 and 34 years old.

Lifehacker’s advertising function even put together a positioning chart with age on the horizontal axis.

EE Times, PR, Public Relations, business communications, storytelling, PR storytelling, business storytelling, The Hoffman Agency, journalism, publications

A media property like Lifehacker can reach these types of numbers by emphasizing programming and apps which in turn brings in the younger demographic.

Back to EE Times, its target engineers skew on the older side which leaves the suits in an impossible place: they can’t make money with print – which they ditched years ago – but the audience won’t “fully” engage online where they can be monetized.

UBM must feel like they’re watching grass grow as they wait for a favorable demographic.

Being my mid 50’s, it pains me to say there’s a killer media property waiting to be launched that says, “Forget the old guys (and gals), we’re targeting young engineers (under 35).”

I’m hoping UBM does this.

I’m convinced someone will because the importance of engineers, what they think and what they buy has only increased in this world gone digital.


The Role of the Hashtag in a Forbes Headline Attracting Over 400K Views

Eric Savitz at Forbes oversees the CIO Network, a forum for executives to articulate a point of view.

If you scroll through a few months of these byliners, you’ll see the number of views at 1,000, 2,000 and a select few tipping the 5K mark for bragging rights. As noted in “Social Numbers Don’t Mean Jack,” access to the Forbes halo doesn’t guarantee readers.

But check out this contributed post published in Forbes last year:

business communications, CIO Network, Eric Savitz, Forbes, google, hastags, PR storytelling, storytelling, the hoffman agency, twitter

Talk about an outlier.

Over 400,000 views on the need for financial types to embrace social media. The topic doesn’t exactly scream click bait.

So what explains the staggering number?

The one element that makes this Forbes post different from other executive byliners lies in the headline and the use of the hashtag, “#Accounting: Why Finance Teams Need To Get Social.”

We already know the power of the hashtag in Twitter, but this example suggests the hashtag can impact broad Web searches.

This prompted me to go into the Google Keyword Tool to see the difference between a search on [accounting] versus [#accounting]. As you would expect, “accounting” is a big word with more than 11 million searches in a given month. Unfortunately the keyword tool treats the two terms exactly the same.

This wasn’t the case in using the search engine.

You can see the page 1 listings from a search on [accounting] below.

business communications, CIO Network, Eric Savitz, Forbes, google, hastags, PR storytelling, storytelling, the hoffman agency, twitter

No sign of the Forbes byliner which can’t compete with a crush of schools tuning their SEO for the term.

But a search on [#accounting] delivers a completely different result (even if its sister keyword tool says otherwise).

business communications, CIO Network, Eric Savitz, Forbes, google, hastags, PR storytelling, storytelling, the hoffman agency, twitter

Here we are almost one year after the contributed piece was published, and it’s still showing up on page 1 for the search with a hashtag. Once you clear the accounting firms, it ends up being the sixth on this list.

What we don’t know is how many search on [#accounting].

Without access to Forbes’ analytics, we also don’t know how much organic traffic is coming to this article on a monthly basis.

Still, we can assume the hashtag in the headline and organic search have something to do with the extraordinary number of views of the piece.

If you have additional insights on the hashtag in Web searching, please chime in.


The Corporate Speak vs. #Storytelling Debate

Dare I say, storytelling has become downright trendy in business communications.

“Narrative” has officially entered the PR vernacular.

Yet, just because words like “protagonist,” “story arc” and yes, “narrative,” get bandied about doesn’t guarantee storytelling has displaced corporate speak.

The SlideShare deck, “The Return of Storytelling vs. Corporate Speak,” shares some of the science and anecdotal evidence on why storytelling works. It also allows you to assess whether your communications are best described as corporate speak or storytelling.

The Return of Storytelling vs. Corporate Speak from The Hoffman Agency

The fact that the deck has earned more than 37K views in a few weeks offers yet another indicator that people care about the topic. By upgrading to SlideShare Pro (which we did some time ago), you can drill down to the next level of analytics and see what’s behind those views.

SlideShare in the right hands has the potential to be a “poor man’s YouTube.” Like video, it’s a terrific platform for storytelling in the sense that it’s visual, so the viewer doesn’t “work” to consume it.

I think I just evangelized a platform for storytelling by creating a story on storytelling for that very platform.

Who’s on first?

P.S. Hopefully, the search algorithms don’t punish me for keyword stuffing.

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Fortune Journalist Cuts to the Core of Storytelling in Business

In a time of gnat-like attention spans, few publications still practice long-form journalism.

Fortune is one exception, and Patricia Sellers is one exceptional storyteller.

If you recognize the name, it’s likely because Sellers took Fortune’s annual feature, “The Most Powerful Women in Business,” and transformed it into franchise with its own brand cachet.

The Stanford Business School recently interviewed Sellers starting with the question: Why is storytelling important for entrepreneurs?

Not exactly an alert-the-media moment as she highlights social media as the means for startups to tell their stories without depending on journalists.

But what she considers “the best stories” is worth highlighting. While she doesn’t call it a story arc, that’s what she lays out. Using her words, we’ve drawn it out below:

Fortune Journalist Cuts to the Core of Storytelling in Business

She closes with this punch line:

“If failure isn’t part of the story, I’m not that interested.”

Think about this for a moment.

If the story doesn’t show struggle, things going wrong and ultimately failure taking hold, she won’t pursue the story.

Because these elements generate the drama.

You can watch the interview with Sellers below


Reverse Engineering the #Storytelling Techniques in a Fast Company Feature

Every company wants a signature win in heavyweight publications like Fast Company, BusinessWeek and Fortune.

By signature win, I mean 1,000-plus words devoted to a behind-the-curtain look at the company.

Yet, few PR teams cultivate the needed content assets to give themselves a fighting chance for this type of attention.

It requires thinking like a journalist, framing the tension in the story and teasing out potential texture.

To understand the type of fodder that drives such #storytelling, we selected a Fast Company feature, “Walmart’s Evolution from Big Box Giant to E-Commerce Innovator” and categorized the content type (3,324 words).

Storytelling, PR storytelling, business communications, business storytelling, Fast Company, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Walmart, anecdotes, The Hoffman Agency, Lou Hoffman

A few points worth noting—

  • The core narrative only constitutes 21% of the piece. Your standard messaging document is not enough to carry the day.
  • Competition and challenges will always be part of a feature story. That’s how the journalist creates a story arc. There has to be a bump in the road or better yet, a “big bad guy” threatening your livelihood.
  • As discussed before, anecdotes represent a sizable chunk of feature writing. While execs can trivialize anecdotes as “fluff,” they’re critical to bringing an entertainment dimension to the story.

In fact, the Fast Company piece on Walmart kicked off with an anecdote that sets the stage for the storytelling:

Jeremy King was ignoring the largest retailer in the world. For a month, he’d been getting calls from a Walmart recruiter. King was used to being wooed, since he was well known in Silicon Valley as an engineer who built key parts of eBay’s infrastructure. The calls kept coming. Finally, he picked up the phone and let Walmart know exactly what it would take to get him to interview. “I was like, ‘Why don’t you get the CEO on the phone – let him talk to me and then maybe I’ll come in?’” recalls King, who didn’t even know who the CEO of Walmart was. “I was being cocky. The CEO of the world’s largest retailer wasn’t going to meet with me just so I’d do an interview.”

We don’t know whether this lead graph come from the journalist’s discovery process or PR, but it really doesn’t matter.

The more PR can bring a journalistic mentality to content development, the stronger its position to secure feature coverage in mainstream media.


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