Algorithms as the new editors

By Adrian Ma

If you catch me in an 'in-between' moment, you'll most likely find me scrolling through one of my feeds on Facebook or Instagram. It was while scrolling through Facebook that I learned of the death of Delores O'Riordan from the Cranberries. In fact, it's where I discover a lot of news.

I'm not alone in here. A Reuters study points out, 51% of us are now using social media as a news source, which marks a shift in news and content discovery that we need to build into our own working practices.

the role of gatekeeper to news stories is falling out of the hands of editors, and into the hands of the algorithms that promote organic content on our feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.

I don’t think that algorithms will completely replace editors. I certainly hope not, anyway (that’s another topic). But as PRs, it’s our role to manage the visibility of brand reputation, and because of this, we need to adapt our way of working to ensure that we’re considering the role of the social algorithm in content discovery.

Let’s use the Facebook algorithm as an example. Facebook breaks down the steps to its newsfeed algorithm into four stages

  1. Inventory – Facebook takes an inventory of the stories that you and your friends have posted and the pages you follow
  2. Signals – Facebook considers all data available to determine how interested you will be in a story (these include who posted a story and how much engagement it has had)
  3. Predictions – Facebook then uses signals to make a prediction to calculate how probably you are to read, comment or share a story
  4. Score – Facebook generates a ‘relevancy’ score

 

This process happens every time you open Facebook, and determines what your feed looks like.

Changes that Facebook announced recently may, of course, change all this. But the one thing that remains clear is that if you’re working on a story that you want to be discovered, it’s important to consider the role of ‘Signals’ in discovery. This is true of any social media platform and the algorithms work in very similar ways.

Mainly, this means that if you want your content (whether it be a piece of coverage, or something direct from a brand) to be seen, it’s got to be something that receives engagement.

Of course, there are those that seek to ‘game’ these algorithms. I’ve known Instagram influencers to create WhatsApp groups (or ‘Pods’, as they call them), with fellow influencers to announce when a piece of content is posted, so that they can all ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on it at the same time in the hope that it will increase visibility.

We’re not suggesting that you adopt these practices. In the long term, these algorithms always wise up to them, and you’d run the risk of being penalised as a result of these ‘Black Hat’ practices.

But at the very least, you should be considering your role after a piece of coverage has been landed, or a piece of content is live. Life doesn’t stop with coverage. In fact, for many of our clients, it’s just the start and it's our job to work with them to help get it discovered.

For more about Facebook’s algorithm, check out this article on Social Examiner.


The Paleo Foods Co. appoints Fanclub PR

We're stoked to announce that we're working with The Paleo Foods Co., a health food brand on a mission to disrupt the breakfast category by moving consumers away from unhealthy, packaged cereals. Instead, its range of natural granolas are free from cereal grains and packed with simple and wholesome ingredients that are low in sugar and low in carbohydrates.

As mentioned by our friends at PR Week, we'll be looking after consumer and trade PR, managing an influencer outreach programme for the brand and working on cross category new product launches. Claire Dinsmore, ‎Founder of The Paleo Foods Co. commented:

“We chose the Fanclub team for their understanding of the food and drink market and their enthusiasm for our product. Their industry experience combined with their unique approach and creativity stood out to us and we look forward to working alongside them.

Watch this space for Paleo news!

 


Dates for your 2017 calendar

From National Pie Week to Learn Your Name in Morse Code Day, it can be hard to keep up with what’s happening and what’s important.

But, don’t fear! We’ve poured over the calendars, and found the key dates every PR person needs to know for 2017 as well as a few extras to help spark those creative ideas.

You can thank us later! (Perhaps with a puppy on National Dog Day in August).

 

January:

Blue Monday (16th)

National Hug Day (21st)

Chinese New Year (28th)

 

February:

World Cancer Day (4th)

National Pizza Day (9th)

Valentine’s Day (14th)

The Oscars (26th)

Mobile World Congress (27th – 2nd March)

Pancake Day (28th)

 

March:

St David’s Day (1st)

British Pie Week (6th – 12th)

International Women’s Day (8th)

Beauty and the Beast film release (17th)

International Day of Happiness (20th)

CeBit (20th – 24th)

Mother’s Day (26th)

 

April:

April Fools Day (1st)

Good Friday (14th)

Easter Sunday (16th)

Easter Monday (17th)

Facebook F8 (18th – 19th)

Queen Elizabeth 2nd birthday (21st)

London Marathon, St Georges Day and Shakespeare Day (23rd)

 

May:

Eurovision (13th)

 

June:

UEFA Champions League Final (3rd)
Apple WWDC 2017 Keynote Address – Info TBC (12th)

Father’s Day (18th)

Glastonbury Festival (21st – 25th)

Royal Ascot (21st – 24th)

 

July:

Tour de France (1st – 23rd)

Wimbledon (3rd -16th)

British Golfing Open (20th – 23rd)

 

August:

Edinburgh Fringe (4th – 28th)

International Friendship Day (7th)

Film release: Emojimovie (11th)

Notting Hill Carnival (also National Dog Day) (26th – 27th)

 

September:

IFA, Berlin (1st – 6th)

International Day of Peace (21st)

Jeans for Genes Day (23rd)

 

October:

LinkedIn’s Talent Connect (3rd – 5th)

National Work Life Week (3rd – 7th)

National Animal Day (4th)

World Smile Day (6th)

International Chocolate Week and International Curry Week (9th – 15th)

HR Technology Conference (10th – 13th)

International Baking Week (16th – 22nd)

World Food Day (16th)

Halloween (31st)

 

November:

World Vegan Day (1st)

Guy Fawkes (5th)

Remembrance Sunday (12th)

World Kindness Day (13th)

International Men’s Day (19th)

Universal Children’s Day (20th)

Road Safety Week (21st – 27th)

Thanksgiving (23rd)

Black Friday (24th)

Cyber Monday (27th)

St Andrews Day (30th)

 

December:

First day of advent (3rd)

Hanukkah (13th – 20th)

Film release: Star Wars (15th)

Christmas Eve (24th)

Christmas Day (25th)

Boxing Day (26th)

New Year’s Eve (31st)

 

 


Five things I took from the Brands as Publishers talk at London Tech Week

By Joey Green

Sarah and I headed down to Hackey House during London Tech Week to listen to Mary Ellen Dugan, WP Engine, Paul Mikhailoff, Forbes, and Scott Wilkinson, Virgin Media talk about brands as publishers, all moderated by the very personable Julian Blake, Digital Agenda.

Quality content and placement is critical

You might think ‘well, duh’ but it’s surprising how many brands a) don’t produce enough content and b) don’t put enough effort into it and c) don’t think about where and what time they’re placing it. As Mary said, brands need a unique perspective, they need their own content and it needs to be delivered continuously to build customer loyalty. Forbes famously said ‘publish or perish’ before launching a place where brands can publish their content onto the Forbes website. A conversation will happen whether a brand is involved or not and so brands really should get involved.  The success of the content is down to its quality and audiences expect effort to be made if they’re going to engage with it.

In terms of placement, grown-up brands understand human psychology and will respect the demographic of the audience and where they’re consuming the content – whether it’s their own customers on their own channels or whether it’s Forbes’ readership. Forbes also help brands to learn to use data, something which is critical if you want engagement. Understanding channels and timings is also vital and comes with using data correctly - long-form content doesn’t work late at night when everyone’s on their phones instead of their desktops and posting ten Instragram shots in a row is an unwritten no no.

Don’t try and bullshit your audience

Although people are more willing to engage with a brand’s content (providing its of a good quality) they certainly don’t like it when you try and bullshit them with fake stuff. Audiences are savvy nowadays, more than ever before, and they know when content has an agenda so don’t bother to try and trick them. Paul said that brands need to move away from a glossy façade and start representing the people – he clarified that brands he sees that publish the best content are the ones who allow their employees to be thought leaders. We agree. Having Jeff from HR take over the brand’s Twitter for the day and post pictures of his cats and terrible yet great puns will make content more authentic and more real and in return audiences will trust the brand more. On of our clients, Tesco Mobile is great at having a funny, personable Twitter presence and often gets covered in the likes of Buzzfeed for it.

Equally, the likes of Forbes doesn’t try to hide anything from their audience and doesn’t dress up a brand’s content as journalism. If content is coming from a brand then they make that clear – according to Paul this doesn’t affect results either, a recent article from a brand received over one million views and counting.

Red Bull sets the bar high

All panellists agreed that Red Bull is at the forefront of brands as publishers. People are not only willing to engage with the content Red Bull produces but actively seek it out. Every campaign is a success – people want to know about it and journalists want to write about it – it’s one of the best examples of how decent content can deliver earned media and results.

Branded content’ is not the same thing as brands delivering content

The term ‘branded content’ doesn’t sit well with Scott as it suggests that its self-serving to the brand, not the audience, which isn’t the case anymore if you do it properly. Scott believes, and we agree, that the future will see branded content become smoother and smoother moving toward brand’s producing content as a natural thing. Could certain brand’s blogs overtake news sites? We’re not sure but it’s certainly possible. On one side, a journalist is still more trusted by the public than a brand’s employee but Red Bull, for example, regularly releases news and is arguably no less of an online publication than a sports or music site. It also boasts around 850k users per month yet isn’t listed on the PRs best friend, Gorkana. There’s still two sides to the story but we could see this changing in the next five years.

Content should be at the heart of everything

Content should be at the heart of your campaign, according to Scott from Virgin Media Business and we at Fanclub couldn’t agree more. Scott talked us through how the ‘Pitch to rich’ (now Voom) which produced tonnes of user-generated content and took Virgin Media Business from 12pc awareness to 45pc awareness over just two years.


Four Tips for pitching to Sunday Times Money, from Editor Becky Barrow

By Joey Green

On Wednesday 9th December, I got up bright and early to attend the last Gorkana Breakfast Meeting of 2015, which was with Becky Barrow, Editor of Sunday Times Money.

Becky, who joined the Sunday Times last year after nine years on the Business section of the Daily Mail, was passionate, eloquent and incredibly knowledgeable. She knew her audience and knew exactly what she looked for in a story, so we’re going to share some of the insights.

Firstly, when talking about the Sunday Times readership, Becky said the average reader was a well-informed, wealthy professional – who was also charming and grateful for the tips produced in the section. A nice bunch!

The section is made up of the Have Your Say letters, investment tips, the Fame and Fortune interview, among other things including personal stories.

Here are her tips for pitching stories to her

1) Keep your content accessible.

Becky began by saying that money is not a dry subject, it’s about real people and personal stories and that case studies are at the core of the section. People need to know where to get good financial advice and Becky is making the Sunday Times Money section the place to get it. She was also keen to point out that the financial crisis is entirely different from personal finance. She tries to avoid financial jargon and when it’s unavoidable, will make sure it’s explained in full.

2) Real life case studies to back up your story are almost vital.

A lot of readers’ letters make up stories in the section, providing relatable content that can really help others. One of Becky’s favourite stories was around children who had been cut out of their parent’s will and, interestingly, this was almost solely women. Again, this was a story helped by readers’ letters.

3) Don’t pitch Joe Bloggs, CEO of another-company-no-ones-heard-of for Fame & Fortune.

If you want to pitch for the Fame & Fortune section then you must ensure your client is relevant at the time and well known. Oh, and don’t pitch someone who’s already been featured as this just isn’t their bag, unless it’s the Queen.

4) Don’t oversell. If you want an advertisement, pay for an advertisement.

They are always looking for new experts to comment but if you pitch your client make sure it’s subtle and isn’t sales-y.

Becky Barrow can be found on Twitter at @beckymbarrow