“Industry reading.” Those are two words that have no business on a PR agency’s invoice.
What client wants to pay for “reading?” Is there a metric attached – reading at so many words per minute? Or a knowledge measurement – a test of information retention?
Though logging of billable hours doesn’t apply, the same fundamental value question is true on the corporate side of the table.
Reading isn’t a business function, but it’s inherently important daily habit of the best PR professionals. The reality is, the value of reading is in understanding media trends, industry perspective and more broadly, a form of research social medialites call “listening.” As if listening was new.
The Value of Daily Industry Reading
Each and every morning, the first and last 30-60 minutes of my work day usually consists of reading, which discounts the time I invest in leisure to pursue my own reading interests. It’s a routine of sifting through vast volumes content and identifying those pieces relevant to my business.
The sources for this content comes in four primary forms. First, I subscribe to a long list of email newsletters, which Outlook allows you to create rules to automatically have filed in a “reading” folder so as to not distract my work outside of scheduled reading time.
The second source comes by way of an RSS reader (I’m a big fan of NetVibes), which I diligently update adding new blogs and media outlets as identified – and eliminating those that become less relevant. Sure, RSS readers require care and feeding, especially in the beginning, but if maintained well, such readers provide a single dashboard-style view of the publications of the most relevant influencers in your space.
The third source is Twitter lists. It’s arguably the single most useful feature Twitter has created (it’s a pity Twitter hasn’t enabled an ability to advertise based on lists), and when following thousands of people on the platform, provides a snapshot of the latest conversations from those you’ve listed as influential.
The fourth source is Paper.li, which automatically aggregates a list of content based on settings the user defines, which for me, is people I’ve come to trust. It’ll also schedule a daily tweet with this list of content, but by far and large, the best value I find is in identifying great content. I read my own Paper.li’s every day.
The 6 PR Outputs of Industry Reading
It’s not merely just reading — there’s very little you might read, other than weather or traffic reports, with instant value, rather it’s the cumulative knowledge of reading that’s most significant — but the integration of reading into other applicable PR workflows also builds value. There are six primary outputs of this daily ritual.
1. Updating the media list. A list of relevant contacts is arguably the most valuable document PR pros created. And it’s not just the list – but the process of maintaining that list is a useful mental exercise for committing the topics of interest to a who’s who list of influencers to memory. It’s one thing to have a list on paper, it’s another thing to have that list memorized so that when you’re sitting in a meeting, you can easily recall who would be interested and who wouldn’t. Based on daily reading habits, I update a media list several times a week with new contacts, or edit existing contacts to reflect current focus.
2. Introductory pitches. Anytime I see a new reporter or blogger covering a topic relevant to my business, I’ll draft up an introductory pitch. Usually, these are folks outside of the core trade media list and a good approach is to point them towards research or expert analysis that could have value for future coverage. You don’t always see an immediate response, but often those reporters will come back to you in several months – the next time they are covering a related topic.
3. Relationship building. If you’ve ever received a helpful email without an “ask” or a sales pitch, you’ll probably remember that person. The same is true for reporters and bloggers, who are after all humans too. If you read a good piece by one of your regular contacts – send them a note and tell them. Everyone likes a compliment and better still when you can add value without asking for something in return.
4. Schedule social media. If your business or client entrusts you with social media responsibilities, use the daily reading ritual to schedule content for publication. Be sure to accrue some relationship value out of your tweets by @replying the author of the content. On Twitter, I’m a big fan of Buffer for scheduling content and I’ve paid the $10 a month out of pocket for the premium version for several years now.
5. Bookmark blog post or contributed content ideas. Create a system for cataloging and organizing relevant links you might “riff off of” for blog posts, or contributed articles. For example, every week on Friday, I like to publish a “Friday Share” post that reviews a relevant industry infographic, SlideShare presentation or YouTube video that I’ve identified during daily reading. All in all, I’ve probably got several months’ worth of easy to create blog posts for this particular theme.
6. Internal notes. For those PR pros that double with product marketing or analyst relations duties, daily reading habits are a great way to source relevant news about competition, trends and industry studies. For example, I’ll send a simple email update with the latest analyst headlines every couple of weeks to an internal product team. At the bottom I’ll add a section for surveys and competitive announcements I spot during my daily duties. Since data and competitors are clearly in the scope of product, I’m helping them do their jobs by doing a little extra in mine.
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Few clients would sign off on a monthly invoice with a substantial amount billed to industry reading. Likewise in the corporate world, I’ve never seen a KPI for staying smart. Yet industry reading is crucial for any PR practitioner that wishes to be effective, and so a better approach is to integrate reading into a workflow with an output that is measurable.
What are some of the ways you integrate reading into the daily workflow?
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