Tag Archive for PR

VSnap – Personalizing The Community

I sat down with Trish Fontanilla, the Vice President of Community and Customer Experience at Vsnap. Fontanilla has built a community from the ground up; she started working with the company before its product was launched.

Since Vsnap is a startup company, Fontanilla is a one-person team in regards to handling Vsnap’s social media feeds and overall customer experience. As a result, Fontanilla has acquired a lot of different skills when it comes to handling an online community.


You have value in every aspect of the business

Fontanilla said that she participates in almost every company meeting. As a community manager, Fontanilla has insight as to what the customers want.

“I think that in every department, someone needs the voice of the community,” Fontanilla said. “Someone needs to talk on behalf of the customers.”

Vsnap's Trish Fontanilla says that a community manager provides value to every company meeting. Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

Vsnap’s Trish Fontanilla says that a community manager provides value to every company meeting.

The use of sentiment analysis provides Vsnap with an understanding of how customers feel about its product. Fontanilla uses this information to shape product development, and enhance the customer’s overall experience.

“[I] could easily pop into any meeting and have a valuable perspective,” Fontanilla said.


You get to hear the news first

A great part about handling the community is that many customers reach out to Fontanilla about their experiences with the product. Relaying this feedback to the product development team helps shape the application.

I’m pretty much the first person that gets to hear really awesome customer stories,” Fontanilla said. “On the flip side of that, I also get to see when people are not happy with us.”


Know why you are apologizing

It’s no surprise that customers use social media to voice their displeasure with a product.

“One of the reasons people lash out on social media is because they feel like no one is listening,” Fontanilla said.

While it is important to apologize, Fontanilla said that you first need to listen. It is important to know why you are apologizing, and how you can help the customer. Simply scanning an email for keywords and giving a bland response is not enough; the reply needs to be tailored to each individual customer. Make sure that you are alleviating the customers’ needs.


Your social media sites are not PR

Realize that your community is not simply public relations for the company. Fontanilla stressed the importance of promoting other local businesses and events through her social media feeds. The value is that the favor could be reciprocated in the near future.
Also, try to take these relationships offline as often as possible. When Fontanilla was working for Bands In Town, she would meet up with local, active community members at concerts. The more you can interact with your customers, the better.

The full interview is available here. Enjoy.

Micro Approach Best in the Macro Blog World



The blogger world may be macro in terms of the scope of topics and the number of blog outlets, but the best way to reach out to bloggers is on a micro scale.

That is one of the key takeaways of “A Best Practice Guide for Effective Blogger Outreach,” a guidebook to effective methods to gain advocacy, publicity, and social sharing for a brand, product, company or campaign. The guide is published by InkyBee.com.

As there once were myriad journalists, there now are millions of bloggers, the guide reports. Regardless, a mass approach to reaching them may mean a massive failure. When it comes to conducting outreach, the best way to advance an initiative is to make relationships first – then with established connections, address bloggers in individualized, specific, and precise ways which relate to their interests, topics, and audience, the guide says.

The “old school” style of public relation is all wrong now, says the guide.  That concept is confirmed by Jenn Pedde, community manager for 2U, in her slide presentation on the subject. These too-direct tactics are bad form as blogger outreach, she says:

Jeffrey Doonan/Flickr-CC

Jeffrey Doonan/Flickr-CC

  • Sending announcements and press releases
  • Cold calling (blog style)
  • Lying
  • Pitching your service/product/company
  • “Write About Me, Write About Me” requests

The guide says bloggers are willing to be pitched, but only:

  • If you do so with integrity
  • If you have relevant, quality ideas that offer value to the blogger’s audience
  • If you have first matched your outreach to the blogger’s specific interests
  • If you have made your content easy to read through and share through embedded links, graphics, and SEO optimized words.

Of course, you shouldn’t attempt to pitch   a blogger before you’ve done the requisite research, assessing the relevance of the blog to your subject matter, the potential audience for your story, the degree of audience engagement with the blog/blogger, and functional details, such as the frequency of publication. While bloggers may not have the same restrictions as traditional journalists, they will have a set of standards. Don’t assume that because they are independent, they don’t approach their work like journalists do. A post from journalism blogger Jim Romenesko illustrates how a pushy pitch fell really flat because of the PR person’s poor-form approach.



I’ve got some personal experience with and context for these asssertions and affirmations.

  • I’ve worked as a daily news journalist who was pitched (badly) by gushing PR types.
  • I’ve been a PR type who knew better than to gushingly pitch reporters.
  •  I’ve lived and worked through the transition from old news to the modern journalism, to the world of blogging and opinion-based online information purveyors.



Today, I’m still pitching the media, but I’m doing it through social channels such as Facebook, twitter, and other means to build connections with, and then later coordinate recommendations and coverage, with media, news commentators and columnists, online content producers, bloggers, and news editors.

It’s a one-to-one world now. While the individualized approach takes longer and requiresmore up-front legwork, it’s well worth the effort when positive outcomes are achieved.

“Earned Media” Means Earned Relationships


Searching for A Golden Opportunity In the Rubbish

I really appreciate that our readings this week focused so much on the power and importance of relationships between bloggers and product/service representatives (or between PR agents, as idea pitchers, and bloggers.) So much of the spam that I remember getting as an intern and blogger at ShermansTravel.com, a travel website based in New York City, was impersonal, dry (though not for lack of trying, via using lots of exclamation points or big words to describe something unexciting), and not at all engaging. Many were very obviously mass-mailed to as many contacts as the PR company could get its hands on. Most of the time, it seemed like the worst phrasing and pitching seemed to come along with the worst events or offers – like the email blast was such a last-ditch effort for a mediocre product that everyone just lost their motivation and pushed out more less-than-stellar stuff. And the sheer volume of the “garbage” PR spam made it difficult to weed through the bad to find the good opportunities.

In a Perfect World…

The e-book by Evernote frames the creation, facilitation and maintenance of a relationship  between blogger and PR rep as a responsibility that’s largely placed on the PR side. In an ideal world, this is how it should be (ideally, for every single blogger out there in the blogosphere) because it intrinsically means that the blogger’s voice and platform are valued to such an extent that a PR agent is required to devote the energy, time, and sometimes money into convincing them that a subject is worth writing about.

The converse, though, leaves smaller-stage bloggers, with small followings, few fans, and few resources in the dark and unlikely to get a “scoop” about events or new products from public relations firms. As we’ve discussed, it takes a lot of effort and planning to build a reputation and become a “top blogger” – one who receives those quality pitches, with positive relationships attached, from their “suitors.”

The Best PR Rep – Blogger Relationships Will Include:

  • Our readings list a lot of ways that PR reps can demonstrate a blogger’s value:
  • Mentioning them in speaking engagements
  • Following up with “thank you”‘s and feedback
  • Tracking the “outputs” of other bloggers picking up their quality material
  • Engaging and promoting the material as much as possible on social media
  • Compensating the bloggers fairly (and being open about expectations and rewards from the beginning, plus ensuring any material rewards are disclosed in the material)
  • Optimizing the post for search engines
  • Telling a good story, on as many platforms as possible.

Most importantly, I think that the best example with also include an outlook towards bloggers (Ahem. And writers, journalists, photographers, reporters…) as valued partners, who are really in it for the same reasons PR reps are – to produce quality. They are not just a microphone for your message or commodity, and if PR companies appeal to their human side with respect, personal interest and understanding, they can become an invaluable ally and resource.