Traditional PR vehicles continue to dry up. Newsrooms are shrinking. And there are fewer and fewer reporters to pitch stories. Social media and outbound marketing campaigns have helped to pick up the slack, of course. But if you think trying to measure traditional PR channels is tough, try monetizing social media platforms. Nevertheless, the demand from clients to get their messages out and distinguish their brands grows more acute.
However, help is on the way, thanks to The 100 Companies’ “The 100,” an email newsletter, website and social media platform that’s being adopted by a growing number of small-to-midsize PR firms (some of which are members of the PRSA Counselors Academy). The digital media platform was created by SPR Atlanta, which spun off The 100 Companies as a separate legal entity.
“The 100” model plays into so-called “snackable” content online (not to mention a shrinking national attention span). Each story that runs in the newsletters is exactly 100 words while each video is precisely 100 seconds. The newsletters feature a blend of stories about or by PR firms’ clients, along with feature items about a particular market, including cultural and local events.
“We wanted to build a software platform that would serve as a news engine for PR agencies throughout the world,” said Chris Schroder, president of SPR Atlanta and The 100 Companies. “It’s an opportunity for PR firms to position their clients as thought leaders in a readable, user-friendly, short-form email newsletter, website and social media platform.”
He added, “Small-to-midsize PR firms are looking to grab more market share and establish a media channel in which business pros and consumers will look to the PR firm as a thought leader and innovator.”
The 100 Companies’ email newsletter was introduced in October 2013. To date, the company has launched four newsletters, including The Atlanta 100, The Oklahoma 100, The North Carolina 100 and The Arkansas 100. Four additional newsletters debut this fall, including The Colorado 100, The Tallahassee 100, The Tampa Bay 100 and The Dubai 100, the first international email newsletter in the mix. The 100 Companies also has letters of intent in eight additional markets, such as Boston, South Florida and Washington, D.C.
In order to qualify as a member, PR firms must sign an annual contract, operate/manage a “100” platform and be in good standing (paid up). Membership is only for one PR firm in each market, or two or three firms might band together to share the membership for a year.
The cost to agencies to produce the email newsletters is $4,000 monthly, according to Schroder. Member companies keep all revenue gained through client retainer, new client business development, sponsorships and partnerships. Email subscriptions are free to subscribers.
To help spark subscriptions, member companies are able to export their newsletters to a client or nonprofit email service.
Each issue features 15 stories, with 12 of the items containing content stemming from news and information about PR firms’ clients. Three stories are placed upon request from other “100” members.
The frequency of the newsletters generally is biweekly. Circulation depends on the market. The North Carolina 100, for instance, carries a circulation of 52,000, said Chuck Norman, owner and principal of S&A Communications and editor of The North Carolina 100.
Norman said the newsletter has helped his firm to develop a new revenue stream. “The ability to both guarantee coverage and highlight how we craft engaging messaging demonstrates our expertise in a variety of industry verticals and introduces our creative executives to brands that might not otherwise have access to our agency,” he added. “It has enabled me to nurture relationships with my clients.”
In addition to landing new budgets, Norman pointed to three major benefits for PR agencies adopting the “100” platform.
1. Strengthen client and potential relations. The ability to harness clients’ stories in the email newsletter demonstrates that you understand brands’ value proposition and how to communicate with their audiences using a third-party validator.
2. Extend your clients’ footprint. Repurposing content enables the clients’ messages to go deeper than existing PR channels, such as website, blogs and social platforms and lure more eyeballs.
3. Broaden your PR firm’s reach. By featuring a variety of stories in the newsletter, PR firms get in front of prospects and influencers who otherwise might be off-limits. Cross-pollinating content from one newsletter to another can also help PR firms cultivate clients outside their region or state.
Norman stressed that the networking opportunities afforded by “The 100” should hold great appeal among small-to-midsize PR firms and agencies.
“You can introduce other people to your business with a product that has journalistic integrity,” he said. “The ulterior motive is to promote your clients, but the newsletter has to be well-rounded and focus on what’s important to the market and the business community. That is why we go beyond our client base to feature executives, brands and opportunities that are important to subscribers in our state.”
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