Political Bias: How Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines Impact SERP’s

Google recently settled with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Over Political Bias Claims. In a recent segment on RT America, we discussed the Google antitrust probe and the political bias complaints from former Google employees.

 

 

In this article, I discuss the following:

  • Is there political bias in how Google displays search results?
  • Does political bias impact ranking recommendations in search queries on Google?
  • Are search resulted altered or manipulated during political elections?
  • Does Google provide access to information regardless of a political viewpoint?
  • Does Google rerank or change search engine results?
  • Does Google Censor search engine results?
  • Is Google’s search engine biased?
  • Does big tech discriminate against right-leaning media outlets and employees?
  • Does Google promote or demote content that is considered controversial or labeled as a conspiracy theory?

Does Google Censor Free Speech?

One of the most pressing issues in the 2020 election is our ability to access fair and balanced news on search engines. Americans want to make sure they are seeing content from all political parties in order to make an informed voting decision.

Recently, there has been concern over the suppression of content on search engines and the ability of big-tech to tamper with elections and SERP’s (search engine results pages). This is no secret and has been widely reported in the news. Some sites claim that they have been blacklisted for certain search terms, and their content has been deranked because it is labeled as low-quality content.

The Politics Behind Machine Learning 

The politics of artificial intelligence is a critical topic as we move towards better understanding algorithm rankings. In order to determine if algorithms are balanced, you need to look at who is responsible for creating the algorithms in the first place. Remember, the people who create the algorithms can create them to their own belief system.

This is why it is important that if a search engine owns 90 percent of the search market, that it employs people from all political point of views.

It is critical that machines are programmed properly for both Democrats and Republicans.

Several conservative bloggers have reported being manually banned for content in search results. Recently, President Trump tweeted that Google manipulated votes in the 2016 election.  Some bloggers have reported that heavily trafficked articles saw a huge drop in search engine rankings. So what is really behind this?

Search Engine Manipulation

Manipulating search engine results has also been a widespread issue covered in recent Congressional hearings.

So the million dollar question is: Is this really due to political bias of search engines?

Or does it have to do with larger quality issues called “E-A-T” as outlined by Googles Quality Rater’s Guidelines?

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines

In Google’s recent quality rater guidelines update, they placed a greater emphasis on news sites, and algorithm changes in the news industry. There is also a stronger emphasis placed around author credibility, particularly in the (Your Money Or Your Life) YMLY Categories – Civics, Government and Law has been added to this area.

Additionally, alternative health sites have taken a hit in search ranking results.  Reputation is also being considered in the quality rater guidelines from outside news sources.

Any website that is considered to be a YMYL page is put on a higher standard by Google because they have the ability to affect a searcher’s health, happiness, wealth, and safety.

E-A-T Worthy Content

There are over 200 technical SEO factors that can impact search engine rankings on Google.

But what about E-A-T and the impact it can have on search rankings?

When Google is rating your web site, they are evaluating it for E-A-T worthy content. The main question they are looking to answer when rating your site is: is this content trustworthy?

And it doesn’t matter if you tell people you are trustworthy. What really matters here is that others around the web from third-party sources are saying you are trustworthy.

So now imagine that you have a popular right wing web site. The author states they are trustworthy. Then, you go to Google, and there are numerous complaints about the web site and others saying this person is not credible at all and is spreading conspiracy theories. It almost doesn’t matter what the person says at this point. Because third-party credibility to support your own claim of expertise matters more than your actual credibility in Google’s eyes.

So even if you are authoritative in your field, if Google determines the author of the content has a poor online reputation, that will impact the search rankings of the web site. If the author of the article has a poor digital reputation in the court of public opinion, that site is most likely going to tank and will never rank well.

Google also emphasizes that your site must have a clear purpose.

Google Page Purpose

 

But what if the purpose of your site is by nature controversial?

For example, what if you create a web site that states:

“The purpose of my site is to share the truth about vaccines.”

OR

“The purpose of this site is to share why abortion is wrong.”

See the inherent problem here? Google is viewing political pages or right wing pages as having invalid page purposes to begin with. They believe the purpose of those pages is to harm users!

Additionally, the second highlighted statement there is a contradiction within their guidelines document. “As long as the page is created to help users, we will not consider any particular page purpose or type to be higher quality than another.” Incorrect.

Later on in their guidelines document, they go on to say the following:

Low Quality Google Pages

 

So here is the problem. Any information that is not considered acceptable by the mainstream will not be called “accurate content”  if you are unable to provide citations to studies around the web supporting the claim.  The majority of alternative health information or right wing content will by nature contradict well-established expert consensus. All of this information may be labeled as “unsubstantiated conspiracy theories” by Google. Google will also say that this information is attempting to misinform rankings and spread conspiracy theories. If you are sharing information that cannot be cited by outside sources, it will be considered an opinion, and may be more likely to get pushed down vs. a pharmaceutical company that can cite studies.

And the worst part of all of this? If you try to publish journalism that is not in the mainstream, Google is actually accusing users of doing it to “make money or gain attention.” How sad.

 

 

 

LOW QUALITY GOOGLE PAGES BY E-A-T STANDARDS

 

E-A-T Trust and Political Content

Even though you have followed Google’s guidelines of having the purpose of your site be visible, you are not following the guidelines because in their eyes, you are spreading conspiracy theories. It doesn’t matter what you write, or how many blog posts you write because everyone says that “content is king!” Google will determine you are spreading fake news because these are not mainstream popular opinions, and you will see a steep decline in rankings that you most likely can’t ever recover from.

Google is not seeing this as political bias. They are very transparently saying: we will deprioritize site rankings that share views that are not popular.

E-A-T is all about trust. And if you are sharing any political opinions that are outside of the norm, Google will see that as a real danger and threat to consumers. You will tank in E-A-T rankings. I’m convinced this is real issue because the alleged political bias that is being reported about Google, but no one has put the pieces together.

Additionally, the reputation of the content creators matters in the eyes of Google. So if the bios of the authors are controversial in any way, that will also negatively impact search rankings.

So, let’s explore this.

Let’s say Google has no political bias at all. But, if everyone else says your site is spreading conspiracy theories or leaves bad reviews about you all over the Internet, that will impact your rankings. And from what we have seen, many conservatives with strong opinions that are outside of the mainstream may fall under this category. If you pair that with Googles brand new quality rater guidelines, you have the perfect storm. I am not quite sure anyone has really connected the dots yet on this one, but I believe this is at the heart of what is really going on here.

This screenshot is taken from Google’s clause on Pages that potentially spread hate. What is most interesting here is that they ask the Quality Rater’s to use their own judgment based on personal knowledge.

Google cannot claim to be neutral and have no political bias when in the same sentence in a document created for quality review standards they tell reviewers to exercise personal judgment! Yes, I understand this particular clause is referring to pages that spread hate and not political pages, but you get the point.

An AP article stated, “Political leanings don’t factor into Google’s search algorithm. But the authoritativeness of page links that the algorithm spits out and the perception of thousands of human raters do.” I completely agree with this statement.

The other challenge, particularly for doctors in alternative medicine, is that Google is determining what is fact from a conspiracy. So, for example, if you dish out advice on your site that Google considers inaccurate or dangerous, your site will suffer in search results. If your views are alternative and differ from the mainstream, that is considered “dangerous.”

 

I believe this same principle is being applied to machine learning and quality rater reviews pertaining to politics.

 

See what’s happening here? Google is essentially saying medical advice should NOT be given by people who do not have appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. But, what are they defining as “appropriate medical expertise” and accreditation? See how this could take out the entire field of alternative medicine sites in one clean swoop?

consensus

Can you see why this could be largely problematic? “Where such consensus exists.”

Well, there are many areas where consensus will NOT exist on topics ranging from healthcare to politics. So what happens to those sites where the opinions fall out of the mainstream, popular choice? Are they not considered quality pages? According to Google, yes, they are not, and they are deemed low quality websites.

Why Author Reputation Can Tank Search Engine Rankings

Positive reputation is mentioned several times throughout this document. Many right wing sites have been tarnished with negative reviews on accredited business review sites. So, Google will take that into consideration, and they are very clearly saying “positive reputation” matters for rankings.

 

So, if a political commentator or alternative healthcare practitioner has negative reputation mentions all over the Internet, Google will automatically derank that content from appearing in search results. They aren’t hiding that fact- it’s just that no one has really bothered to read through these quality guidelines and connected the dots together regarding the impact of these guidelines on political content search results.

I also notice several times throughout the quality rater guidelines one of the common criteria for low-quality page rankings is “the level of expertise of the author is not clearly communicated.

Yes, E-A-T SHOULD distinguish between the two scenarios, except when it doesn’t.

And that’s where the problem really begins…

Many right wing commentators and political pundits who have risen to fame on Twitter and social media may not have the political background Google considers as “ accredited” regarding expertise on politics.

Right off the bat, regardless of what they publish, Google will see an inconsistency with the topic of content they are writing about and their perceived background of expertise in the topic. Again, this will automatically tank search rankings, and Google is very clearly stating it.

consensus

Is Google politically biased?

So, does Google have a political bias when it comes to search engine results? I am going to leave that to you to determine, because I don’t want this site to be flagged for “spreading conspiracy theories.”

 

Does Google censor search results?

What I really think is going on is that Google’s determination of “dangerous” information is the real culprit here. Any information being disseminated on the Internet around nontraditional healthcare remedies or non-mainstream political views is considered ‘dangerous’ because it does not reflect the popular opinion of the majority of Americans.

Google will de-prioritize this content in an effort to “protect” consumers from fake news. The problem is that for some people, that news is not fake news, and it is real news. They want access to both. And they do not want Google determining what is real vs. fake and what is dangerous vs. what is helpful.

In a private conversation with an anonymous SEO specialist, he said, “If you’re writing articles around science, show your research and medical journal citations so Google can verify it as credible. And if you’re writing about politics, don’t have negative social proof. How else would Google verify it as fact or fiction other than social proof? What algorithm could they create? There’s no way to measure politics because it is all opinion based. You either have good social proof or you don’t.”

My reply?

“No. You don’t get it. Anyone in politics who is a conservative will automatically have negative social proof. That’s the whole point of this investigative journalism piece.”

That is my take on the issue. What is yours?

 

E-A-T RESOURCES

Google Quality Rating Guidelines

Google Quality Raters Guidelines Updated 

Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines E-A-T Webinar: Marie Haynes 


Corporate Social Responsibility, PR and the Rise of CEO Activism

150 CEOs of major companies demanded the Trump administration and Congress to take action on gun violence.

In a recent segment on Fox Business, branding strategist Kris Ruby, CEO of Ruby Media Group, discussed:

  • How CEOs and their companies can ‘do good’ in the court of public opinion
  • Is CEO political activism fair to shareholders?
  • Is corporate social responsibility a great PR strategy? Or will it lead to long-term economic failure?
  • If it does lead to loss of profit, is it worth it because CEO’s are giving back to society on a larger level?
CEO activism

CEO Activism: Brands and Political Activism

Is taking a political stand a mistake for brands?

Every brand is taking a political stand these days on social media. But is it a mistake? And can it cost you profitability in the long run?

Taking a political stand as a CEO used to be considered a public relations “no.”  Now, it appears almost every Corporate Executive is changing their tune on this old adage. When did things change and why? What can we attribute to the rise of CEO activism?

  1. Millennial consumers. Consumers under 30 demand corporate social responsibility from their leaders.
  2. Social media. Social media changed the playing field. Many CEO’s are now using social media as a portal to share political views. CEO’s believe, “If I can use my power and social media network to make change in this world, then I will.”

The social media microphone of corporate executives

A lot of CEOs today, particularly in big tech, have celebrity power – a sort of bully pulpit they can work from. As I stated above, anyone selling to people under 30 has to take this into account because younger consumers demand much more corporate social responsibility from the companies and brands they buy from.

Social media has changed the speed at which this information is transmitted and the transparency of politicians viewpoints.

Should CEOs get involved in politics and weigh in on controversial issues?

There are expectations on CEOs to speak up on issues anywhere from gun violence to ICE raids and immigration reform.

Consumers are now relying on big brands and corporate executives to impact legislation on topics that were traditionally siloed for the government to handle.

How has this impacted integrated marketing communication strategies?  I am not sure we have seen the full ramifications of how this will impact a brands marketing communications strategy.  We are in unprecedented times.

Yes, corporate political activism seems to have skyrocketed under this administration, but at what cost? All of these decisions can have real world economic impacts as well.  And at some point that is going to catch up.

While it is great to read the headlines of corporate social responsibility, you rarely read about the PR aftermath of partnership or vendor disputes regarding the fallout from some of these decisions.

CEO Activism: the pros and cons  

Even if the CEOs goal of political brand activism is good in nature, it can still have a ripple effect on every other part of their business.

For example, how does a CEOs political views impact their companies media relations efforts? Does it help or hurt them if the press has different political views than the CEO? Similarly, how does this help or hurt the CEO if their employees have different political views?

CEOs say, “Employees want us to speak on their behalf and we are using our power to be their voice.”

However, did anyone ever check what their voice was? That assumes that all employees have the same political views across the board. Employees can feel trapped working for companies who have taken a very public political stance that they don’t agree with. They are afraid to speak up because they don’t want to get fired.  They are working for someone in a political environment where if they express dissident they will be on the outskirts.

CEO Activism and workforce politics

Everyone has a right to free speech, even CEOs.

If a company takes a stand and it ends up driving away customers, the company makes less money and the company stock price goes down.  If shareholders don’t agree with a CEO, they can decide to sell the stock or hold onto it and collect their returns if the stock performs well.

Employees are in a similar situation — if they disagree strongly with a company’s opinion, they can leave. We have historically low levels of unemployment, so it’s easier for a worker to find a new job than ever before. However, just because it is easier, doesn’t mean that most employees will automatically jump ship. Instead, they can stay in the position and it can feel like a slow arduous death.

Taking a side, whether it’s principled or a gimmick, endears you to millions of people on that side.

But what happens to the other side?

For starters, companies with a strong opinion about social or political issues on the far right may not have as much access to talent.  For example, if your company publicly supports Trump, about half the country might not want to come work for you. Similarly, if your company publicly denounces Trump, what about the other half?

When speaking about CEO activism, Richard Edelman stated, “…But we’re also using the power of our employees, who are going to be our motive force.  Employees want us to speak on their behalf. And it’s an urgent time for CEOs to mobilize, in the sense, their entire supply chain of those who contribute to their businesses and get them to write letters as well.” 

“CEOs feel that they are empowered to step forward into the void left by government, that three-quarters of people, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, now want CEOs to stand up and speak up on behalf of issues of the day.  And that’s a new kind of moment in corporate world. So CEOs are doing so, with the backing of their employees and the backing of their customers.”- Richard Edelman

Let’s dissect this for a minute.

This statement is inherently flawed for a number of reasons.

  • It assumes that all customers have the same political view, and that all employees have the same political view.
  • This is a utopian view of society that does not take into consideration that there are two political parties in this country.
  • One cannot assume that all of their employees and customers agree with them unless they know without a doubt that 100 % of their base only has one political point of view.

Should brands take a political stand?

Business leaders are drawn into the political process at rapid speed. But does partisanship really have a role in Corporate America, and what impact can it have on the economy? Business leaders are already entrenched with daily corporate negotiations.  Do we really need to add a halo of polarized politics on top of all of it?

Some believe that if corporate executives do not take a political stand, it is a complete abdication of their responsibility as business leaders. Does Congress want to answer to business leaders? And do consumers really want to be entangled in their favorite brands political preferences? Will this help or hurt business?

It is also important to note that brand activism as a PR stunt is always pretty obvious, and consumers can tell when a brand is not coming from an authentic place.

Similarly, if your short term goals are financially motivated, consumers can sense that as well.

So, where does this leave CEOs and public relations managers who find themselves smack in the middle of this burgeoning era of corporate political activism?

Should consumers rely on brands and corporations for political activism?

Yes, but only if your target audience is partisan, and you have data to back that up. If your target audience includes consumers from BOTH parties, you should strongly consider if inserting your brand into controversial political policies makes sense. Just because it is the hot PR strategy of the moment doesn’t mean it is a profitable one for your business.

If you want to alienate half of your employees and consumers, go for it. But traditionally, companies prided themselves in caring about all of their customers.  That should include customers from all political backgrounds. As a brand, you cannot preach inclusivity, when in reality, you are actually executing corporate exclusivity, while ignoring any differing opinions.

Brand Activism Resources

Most consumers want CEOs to take a political stance

What CEOs Should Know About Speaking Up on Political Issues

The right and wrong way to do CEO activism

Should CEOs be activists?

When should CEOs take a political stand?

The cost of CEO activism

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This article was written by Kris Ruby, CEO of Ruby Media Group. Kris Ruby has over a decade of experience in public relations and CEO personal brand management. In addition to consulting CEO’s on crisis communications, Ruby is also a political commentator. She has appeared on Fox News over 100 times and on countless other networks discussing the politics of social media and corporate branding.  Most recently, Kris Ruby discussed the issue of Nike’s political marketing strategy with Kaepernick on Fox News and Fox Business. Ruby also provided commentary on Gillette’s political marketing strategy with the “The Best Men Can Be” campaign on Cheddar TV. 

All content on this web site is owned by Ruby Media Group Inc. © Content may not be reproduced in any form without Ruby Media Group’s written consent.  Ruby Media Group Inc. will file a formal DMCA Takedown notice if any copy has been lifted from this web site. 

This article was last updated on September 2019.


Media Relations Guide

Media Relations Etiquette

A Publicists Ultimate Guide to Strategic Media Relations 101

How can I use this media relations guide for my public relations campaign?

As a public relations strategist, I have handled media relations campaigns for companies for over a decade.

I wrote this expert guide for publicists looking to increase best practices and for clients looking to understand how the media really works to form better relationships with their PR firms.  The one thing I see time and time again is the onboarding period and steep curve with people who are working with a PR firm for the first time.

“PR is SO much work. You never told me how much time this was going to take when I hired you!”

The goal of this guide is to help you navigate media relations so that you better understand how the media works. We believe that there should be no surprises when it comes to PR.

When there is transparency in the process of how the media really operates, PR clients can develop more realistic campaign expectations, and it can benefit your company by saving you hours of wasted time spinning your wheels trying to figure out why you spent time answering queries that no one is answering.

Plus, when you are more educated about how public relations works, you will have a better relationship with your PR agency.  Too many clients/agencies have strained relationships and we believe it stems from the central problem of people not really understanding how the media works.

Too often, PR firms are blamed for things outside of their control.

In The Ultimate Guide to Media Relations, I am going to teach you:

  • How the media works
  • What the role of a PR firm is
  • Client responsibilities when a PR firm is retained
  • How to work with your PR firm so you get the best traction
  • Media relations best practices
  • Media Relations etiquette

PLUS learn how to answer questions from a reporter.

What is Media Relations?

Media relations is the specific practice of handling media requests with the press, while public relations refers to the management of a company’s relationship with the public and all external stakeholders. A Director Of Media Relations is responsible for all contact with the press on any earned media opportunities.

What is the difference between public relations and media relations?

Media relations is a subset of public relations.

For a long time, media relations was the largest component of PR because traditionally, the media were the primary, trusted gatekeepers to information. It took insider connections to get the media’s attention. All of that is still true today, but parts of it are very different.

Newsrooms are shrinking and social media has democratized the publishing of information. There are far more PR practitioners in the U.S. than journalists.

As a result, while media relations is still part of the mix, it is usually a smaller component of most public relations plans. It is also significantly more challenging to get the attention of journalists than it ever has been before! That is why learning how to pitch the media and what makes a story newsworthy is so critical in today’s medial landscape.

WHY YOU NEED MEDIA RELATIONS

Media relations is the most critical part of a PR campaign. Other public relations activities such as community outreach can be mastered without intricate knowledge of how the media works. However, media relations is the most specialized component of public relations. In order to understand why you need media relations, you first need to understand how publicists and journalists work together on stories and segment.

Digital Media Landscape

 

How do publicists and journalists work together?

Journalists and publicists work closely together on interviews, articles, and broadcast segments.  Good publicists can make journalists lives easier when they are on deadline by providing access to interview opportunities with subject matter experts and key opinion leaders that may otherwise be hard to reach.  Additionally, PR firms have access to media contacts that many people do not have. While you certainly could try to foster these relationships on your own, it would take a considerable amount of time, effort and media savviness to navigate the changing landscape.

What does a media relations agency do?

A media relations agency is responsible for handling all interview coordination between the source and the media.  A media relations agency also makes sure a journalist receives requested high-resolution images or a sources executive biography.  They are also responsible for making sure your PR efforts aren’t sabotaged to ensure your best chance of coverage in the media. Ideally, a trusted media relations specialist provides authoritative sources to journalists and producers who are on quick turnaround times or tight deadlines.  Publicists and media relations specialists understand the sense of urgency that comes with deadlines and filing stories and are able to give the media what they need fast.

THE IMPORTANCE OF MEDIA RELATIONS 

Why is media relations important for strategic public relations?

Journalists and producers are working on several different stories and segments at any given time and your client is not always their top priority.

If you don’t understand media relations and PR etiquette, you run the risk of never having your clients quoted in that media outlet again. If a journalist has a bad experience with your source, they may be likely to share that negative experience with other journalists. Is that really how you want to be perceived simply because you didn’t take the time to understand the language of the media or how things work?

There are so many intricacies that go into Public Relations. PR is an art. It is a craft. This is often why I do not recommend DIY Public Relations. When pitching is handled through a Media Relations Agency, the communication is often clearer, and the ball doesn’t get dropped. Often times, a PR firm may go back and forth with a journalist up to 20 times fact-checking a one line quote in an article. After the fourth or fifth email, people who attempt the DIY PR route usually stop replying to the journalist and risk getting cut from the story entirely. PR firms don’t let that happen.

NYC PR FIRM OFFICE

 

MEDIA RELATIONS ETIQUETTE

One of the biggest mistakes companies make with media relations is they do not follow basic etiquette rules when communicating with the media.

Follow these media relations etiquette rules when working with reporters

3 media relations etiquette rules to follow when publicists work with journalists to ensure success

  • Thank the reporter for media exposure. It is incredible how many publicists skip this simple step. Too often, publicists look at an article from the perspective of how their client will see it and forget to look at it from a perspective of gratitude to the journalist who included their client in the first place. Journalists work hard on stories. If a journalist is giving your client editorial space or digital ink, say thank you for the coverage instead of complaining that the link wasn’t right or the quote was cut short.
  • Act as a Media Gatekeeper. Media Relations Strategists must act as the gatekeeper between the client and the media at all times. The best public relations professionals value their relationships with the media first and foremost. They believe clients come and go, but the media stays. If you burn through those relationships with the media for a client who may or may not keep you retained, you ultimately will damage your reputation as a publicist. However, if you know and respect the rules and filter PR requests, journalists will want to keep working with you, and clients will learn over time that you know what you are doing. Hopefully, they will begin to understand why you say no to certain requests and will begin to trust your strategic media guidance on topics such as how to stay relevant to the media.  If you are continually being pushed by a client to pitch stories you know are not newsworthy, it may be time to reevaluate the engagement.
  • Market Your Media Coverage. Promoting your earned media exposure and press mentions on social media is critical to amplify the value of the press placements for your business. Do not forget to share the media coverage on social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and your blog. Journalists want to drive traffic to their articles. If they included your client in a story, return the favor by tweeting a link to the article and directing eyeballs to it. This small social media act of gratitude can go a long way in ensuring your client is used again as a source. Always extend the value of your media coverage through a strategic cross-channel digital marketing strategy. Being featured in the media is irrelevant if no one knows about it!

 

How to Answer Questions From a Reporter

  • Do not provide one-word answers. Provide the journalist with thorough interview answers.  I won’t send a journalist interview answers from a client that are one line replies, and neither should you. I will go back to my client and ask them to re-do the answers because I know what a journalist is expecting and want to give them lengthier answers that they can pull good quotes from. Additionally, if the answers are missing the mark on the question the journalist asked, I will also ask them to re-do the answers before submitting. A good publicist knows what a journalist needs and can anticipate the needs of their editor as well. They may even have worked in journalism prior to becoming a publicist, which further helps them to understand what is truly newsworthy.
  • Watch the clock. Do not say you will provide interview answers by a certain time and then provide them after the journalist’s deadline. If your client bails on the answers, let the reporter know ASAP and, if possible, provide the reporter with another source. Do not leave them hanging. Additionally, when you are replying to queries from reporters, time is of the essence. For every one press query posted, reporters receive hundreds of responses. You want to be one of the first to reply.  If clients are asking you to submit queries hours later or after a journalists deadline has expired, don’t do it.  It reeks of PR amateur hour.

How Do Journalists Conduct Interviews?

Reporters have different methods of conducting interviews. Some journalists want to speak by phone, while others want to send questions to sources by email. Publicists are responsible for figuring out the journalists preferred interview format and coordinating interview times, answers, and any additional information a reporter needs from a source. Often, the journalists preferred interview format may conflict with the clients preferred interview format.  This is always a challenging and volatile situation to navigate through.  It never gets easier.

STRATEGIC MEDIA RELATIONS

A successful media relations strategist knows how to walk the tightrope of the client’s needs and the medias needs on a daily basis. The goal is to mitigate the level of stress and try to strike a balance.  You must be able to work in a high-stress environment daily to succeed in media relations. Even though clients hire you to get press coverage, they may get perturbed by the daily disruption of media requests. Remind them of why they hired you, and that this is all part of the process of getting earned media coverage. Yes, PR is a lot of work from the client side and from the agency side. PR isn’t for the faint of heart. There is a reason why Pubic Relations is continuously listed year after year as one of the most stressful jobs in America.

Remember, being quoted in the media or mentioned in an article is not your right. It is a privilege and an opportunity to be featured in media outlets. It is called earned media for a reason. Earn it!

Ready to increase media exposure for your business? We can help with media training, media relations consulting, media relations strategy guidance and execution of ongoing media relations work with national media outlets on behalf of your company. Contact us today to discuss how we can help get you more interviews and get you booked, fast!

Media Relations Checklist 

  • Help them help you
  • Respond to press queries in a timely manner
  • Provide thought-leadership content to your PR firm
  • Do not give one-word answers
  • Let your PR firm know newsworthy topics you can comment on
  • Dedicate at least 1 hour per day to working with your PR firm
  • Do not flake out on media commitments
  • Do not reschedule interviews with the media
  • Do not add PR firm contacts on your personal social media (unless you want to royally irritate the PR firm)

PR Agency Pricing Structure

Media Relations/PR Costs

How much should I pay for PR or media relations and how much do publicists cost?

Media relations agencies work on a fixed retainer model. Prices can start at $5k monthly to $25k monthly depending on scope of services and desired press coverage goals. For example, are you interested in local coverage, trade coverage or national press coverage? That will determine the cost of media relations. Additionally, the cost of the service will depend on if you are hiring a freelancer or a large agency.

Public Relations Pricing

Can I afford a PR campaign? How much does Public Relations cost?

People often ask, “Can I really afford a PR campaign?” It is important to understand there are two costs involved in a PR campaign: the cost of the PR firm, and the cost of your time. Most people allocate a budget for the firm, but they do not properly allocate the time to work with the firm they hired. Look at what your billable time is worth by the hour, multiply that by at least one hour a day for every day of the month, and factor that number into your cost.

Should you hire a media relations specialist?

If you cannot spend at least one hour per day working with a media relations agency or PR firm, you should not hire a PR firm. Here is a list of 10 reasons why you shouldn’t hire a PR firm in addition to not having the time to work with an agency. Retaining a publicist is a massive amount of work. You must be willing to put in the time to give the firm what they need on a consistent basis so they can do the job you retained them to do. Please think about his before you hiring a PR firm. We see way too many people hiring PR firms but then ghosting the firms when they need to give them the necessary material to do the job they hired them to do.

TAKEAWAYS

MEDIA RELATIONS TIPS

  • Publicists and media relations strategists provide access to expert sources.
  • Journalists write the articles that the public relies on.
  • Publicists and journalists must work together and respect each other’s skillsets in the process of story creation or disaster can follow.
  • Always have a media relations strategy before reaching out to the media.

As a result of reading this guide, you have hopefully developed  a better understanding of the time requirement it takes for PR, and have gained new ideas on how to write press worthy content that will actually get picked up by the media and has a chance of turning into national media coverage success!

Most companies who retain a PR firms receive no formal training on how to actually work with the firm or how to write content that will get picked up. We hope this guide will better serve you in getting the maximum ROI out of your Public Relations firm. If you have tried all of our tips and still aren’t seeing PR results? Consider contacting us to boost your media relations campaign.

MEDIA RELATIONS RESOURCES

The Ultimate Guide to Prepping for Media Interviews 

Insider’s Secrets to Crafting The Perfect Pitch 

10 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Chance of Media Coverage 

PR Don’ts: 11 Ways to Annoy A Journalist 

Top 10 Signs You Shouldn’t Hire A Publicist 

How To Stay Relevant To The Media 

How To Maximize National Media Exposure 

Pitch Perfect: How To Pitch The Media 

MEDIA RELATIONS AGENCY SERVICES

There are still things a great media hit can do that nothing else can! One feature interview in the national media could result in thousands of earned media impressions for your business.  Ruby Media Group is primarily a media relations driven agency. Other components of public relations are important, but we believe media relations should be at the top of any strategic public relations campaign, first and foremost. If you have tried PR, but can’t garner results from the media on your own, it may be time to call a media relations specialist. Our media relations firm has secured hundreds of impressions for clients over the past 12 years in national media outlets.

Contact us today to discuss a media relations plan for your business. There are many PR firms who focus more on community engagement, and do not deliver when it comes to media relations results (despite promising to!). We are not one of them. Our numerous PR case studies can show you a sneak peek at the massive earned media wins for clients.

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All content on this web site is owned by Ruby Media Group Inc. © Content may not be reproduced in any form without Ruby Media Group’s written consent.  Ruby Media Group Inc. will file a formal DMCA Takedown notice if any copy has been lifted from this web site. 


Buying and Selling Instagram Accounts

Social Media Strategist Kris Ruby was recently interviewed by MarketWatch in the article titled, “This 23-year-old has made $120,000 buying and selling Instagram accounts.”

Flipping Instagram Accounts

 

 

Here are just some Google search results you will see when searching “How to buy Instagram accounts.”

“How to flip and sell Instagram accounts”

“Sell your Instagram account with real followers”

“Instagram accounts for sale with high engagement”

“Marketplace for Instagram account trading”

But is buying or selling an Instagram account a good business decision? And what are the risks if you get caught?

 

Flipping Instagram Accounts & Buying Verified Instagram Accounts: Don’t do it 

People are flipping Instagram accounts. Social Media Strategist Kris Ruby suggests steering clear of this trend and explains why it is bad for your business. 

What are the main ways people buy and sell Instagram accounts? Can you buy verified Instagram accounts?

People are buying and selling Instagram accounts through sites like Swapd, TooFame, Social Tradia and Insta Sale, to name just a few.  Instagram accounts that are for sale are advertised through Reddit threads, Facebook groups, such as Buy, Sell, Exchange, Instagram DM’s and Facebook DM’s.

What does it mean to flip Instagram accounts?

Instagram accounts are flipped the same way real estate properties are flipped. Buy low and sell high seems to be the motto. The practice of buying and selling Instagram accounts appears to be most prevalent with niche accounts.  Niche accounts are created around a specific vertical of content, which typically attracts a target audience that is primarily interested in that specific subject.

Instagram Like Neon Sign

Why are people buying and selling accounts on Instagram? Is it because they don’t want to run the Instagram accounts anymore?

Instagram accounts are bought and sold for a few reasons. Any time something is perceived to have value in the marketing world, it will be exploited. However,  the notion of “value” in the Instagram ecosystem is currently one that is up for grabs and is being redefined as we speak. Instagram is currently testing out a feature which would essentially hide ‘like’ counts. This will be a game-changer for the influencer community and will essentially force everyone to start from a more even playing field. While follower counts will still be critical, engagement will be the most important metric to benchmark against.

There is currently an entire underground market that exists within this influencer community for buying and selling Instagram accounts.  This is not something that a reputable social media agency would endorse or support.  People are buying and selling verified Instagram accounts to make money, not because it has any real intrinsic value for the business who is buying the account.

Why the Instagram influencer bubble was bound to burst

If Instagram hides ‘like’ counts, it will have a massive impact on the entire Instagram ecosystem beyond influencers.   If someone wants to become an influencer, they will have to work much harder to gain the same traction they were previously getting. Influencers will have to focus on creating quality content if they want to increase engagement.

I was never a fan of relying on like counts as a metric anyway. When people want to work with Ruby Media Group for social media management services, I always ask what success would look like. If someone says, “An increase in X number of followers,” I know they aren’t a good fit as a new client for the agency. Why? Because follower count is not a true measure of success. Three hundred followers that are actually in your target audience mean way more than 10,000 followers from all over the world who will never be your customers. Vanity metrics are garbage and have always been pretty much worthless. I have been saying this for years. Likes do not equal new customers and profitability!

So, why does this matter for buying and selling Instagram accounts? If you redefine value in a marketplace, you also redefine what people are willing to pay for that perceived value.  As the metrics of measurement and value change in the Instagram ecosystem, everything will be impacted, including how people flip Instagram accounts. The main metric they were using to measure these accounts may disappear entirely in a few years.

Click and Collect Instagram likesWhat makes an Instagram account valuable?

Followers used to be the supreme way that people measured how valuable an account was. Like count was viewed as equally important. But with Instagram testing a feature that would hide like counts, the notion of value will be redefined. Engagement is the most important metric of what makes an Instagram account valuable.

However, an Instagram account in a silo is not a true measure of value. People make the mistake of thinking one Instagram account can make or break their marketing. It can’t. An Instagram account is one tactic within a larger social media marketing strategy that must exist under the umbrella of a strategic marketing communications plan.

Instagram is not a quick fix to raking in new sales overnight. You have to evaluate the platform in correlation with your target audience/ demographic and where they spend their time online. Whether you are B2B vs. B2C also factors into what makes the most sense for your business. I can unequivocally say that the #1 thing that makes an Instagram account not valuable is a fake account purchased through a third party swapping platform.  Username and third-party verification is also important, but there is an underground market for getting those blue checkmarks too.

Let’s say someone sells an active account with 100,000 followers with decent engagement.  How much would that Instagram account be worth?  How much would a sponsored post on that Instagram account be worth?

Instagram accounts sell on the underground market anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. It is difficult to say how much a sponsored post would be worth as it would depend on how many followers the account has, how much engagement the account has, and the activity level on the account.

Do companies ever buy Instagram accounts so that they can have the username?

Brands buy Instagram accounts predominantly for the follower count and prepackaged audience. Username is a factor as well but not the driving force.   I always encourage people to secure their username on every social media platform.  Even if you don’t plan on using the account, no one can take the social media handle from you if you have secured it first.  In an age where personal branding reigns supreme, owning the social media handles for your name is invaluable.

Is it legal to sell Instagram accounts?  Buying and selling Instagram accounts violates the company’s terms and conditions. Do people actually get in trouble for buying and selling accounts? 

The people who get in trouble are the ones who have bought the Instagram accounts. They may think they got a great deal, but in reality, it is a terrible deal. Why would you want to build something on top of a pre-purchased Instagram account? The Instagram account can essentially be kicked off at any time for violating Instagram’s TOS. That seems like a terrible investment and a big gamble and makes no logical business sense.

Additionally, you have no idea what you are really getting by buying a prepackaged audience that has been built for someone else and not for your business. Furthermore, all it can do is hurt you from a digital marketing perspective. Your ad targeting will be thrown off if it is not custom-tailored to the target audience of customers and prospects you have built for your business. No one else knows your business as well as you do, so why try to purchase it from someone else? Stop looking for shortcuts and do the hard work yourself to build an organic following.

Have you ever heard of circumstances in which an Instagram account has gotten shut down or if someone has gotten banned for buying/selling Instagram accounts?

I haven’t heard of a circumstance in which an account has gotten shut down for buying and selling Instagram accounts because I do everything by the book and don’t fundamentally agree with this practice. I believe in building your own following from scratch — not buying someone else’s and hoping it works out. It is also worth noting that Instagram appears to be kicking people off their platform for any reason they deem fit these days, including what they recently did with the meme purge.

Ruby’s Final Thoughts on Buying and Selling Instagram accounts: 

  • Instagram very clearly states this is against their TOS to buy and sell accounts.
  • Do not buy Instagram accounts through these services. It will hurt any targeting digital advertising you are doing, and Instagram can remove the account at any time if it violates their TOS.
  • The old metric of likes and followers will increasingly matter less in the future of Instagram marketing as Instagram experiments with hiding like counts.
  • Focus on quality engagement and content and stop looking for a shortcut to doing the hard work of building the audience yourself and creating great content.

 


Is the Curated Instagram Aesthetic Dead?

Ruby Media Group CEO Kris Ruby was quoted in a feature story in The Atlantic called “Influencers are abandoning the Instagram look.”

The Instagram Aesthetic Is over

 

Is the curated Instagram aesthetic dead?

Some say Instagram killed our museum culture while others say it reinvented it.

Instagram museums and pop-ups were never truly meant as a replacement for museums. They are a way to experience a new type of art— social media art.

Instagram museums are not dead- rather, the target audience for them shifted substantially. For example, look on the  Instagram feed of family with young children and you will see loads of photos of them at an Instagram museum. Look on the feed of a millennial, however, and you won’t see as many photos of them at an Instagram museum. Why is this?

Because millennials and influencers are all looking to rack up likes and traffic- something a regular Instagram user isn’t as focused on. If a millennial can post a photo that virtually anyone else can post— it takes away from their Instagram and personal brand aesthetic.

There is only one exception to the rule- when media invites the influencers to experience these pop-ups or museums ahead of time, and the influencer has an adequate amount of time to take pictures that do not look as highly curated.

For example, at a recent Candytopia Instagram pop up in NYC, users only had a set amount of time to take photos in the fake marshmallow pit. These photos are fine for someone who is just posting regular family photos. However, if you are looking for a high quality photo to match your Instagram feed aesthetic, you may end up with the same photo hundreds of other Instagram users have already posted.

Additionally, there are people in the background of the photo, which is also something influencers don’t want if they are trying to get a unique photo.

When you actually try to take photos at these pop-ups, you see that it’s not as easy to get a great photo as you thought it would be.

How to create a curated Instagram feed aesthetic

The challenge is trying to keep up a color-coordinated theme with all of these backgrounds. To properly create a curated Instagram feed, everything needs to be planned weeks in advance, especially with things like colored wall photos and pop-up photos.

There is a certain amount of burn-out you see with Instagram users, which is why Instagram Stories have taken off in popularity.

You can throw anything up on a story. The content begins to feel more native and easier to capture. You don’t have to think about colored walls, the filter, or the people in the background in the way of your perfect photo.

Is creating a curated Instagram feed aesthetic really worth it?

Users are now asking themselves, “What length am I willing to go to get that photo? Is it worth the $30 cost of admission?”

Is it really worth driving to the city and the cost of a parking garage all for an Instagram photo that thousands of other people have when you look at the same hashtag?

Is it worth waiting in line once I get there for an hour?

Is it worth jumping into a fake marshmallow pit as a grown adult with other kids where I could potentially get sick and then have to miss work?

And for many users, it’s just not worth it anymore. They can just as easily take a great photo in their neighborhood without having to spend money to get a highly curated photo that 10,000 people already have.

If content is king, unique content reigns supreme, and you can’t get that if you have a photo that isn’t unique.

Ask yourself, is it worth it?

Turning a beautiful Saturday into yet another photo op. Asking the person you are with to be a photographer and take curated photos when all they want to do is sit outside in the sun instead of sitting in a fake marshmallow pit with children as a grown adult trying to get likes from Internet strangers.

Are we willing to lose the people we like in real life to get the attention of people on social media who don’t even know us to “like” our images and digital persona?

More people are waking up to the inherent disparity in this and are finally saying no.

I’m no longer willing to give up real love and likes to get attention from digital strangers.

What about you?

What is your social media line in the sand?



Kris Ruby in NY Post Discussing Instagram Meme Purge

NYC Social Media Strategist Kris Ruby, President of Ruby Media Group, was recently quoted in a NY Post article on the Instagram meme purge. Click here to read the full article “Instagram’s purge of accounts cost this teen $4,000 per month.”

Instagram Meme Purge

During the recent meme purge, many any of the Instagram meme accounts were suspended without warning. This move left many Instagrammers wondering what policy they violated. Users had no idea why they were suspended. Why does this matter? For two reasons:

1) Vague content policies leave users wondering where they went wrong and what TOS they violated.

2) It is becoming increasingly challenging for content creators to build a business where their sole revenue comes in from third-party social media platforms.

The recent Instagram meme purge is a great example of why. You are essentially dependent on a third-party platform to host all of your business content. If that third-party decides to remove you from the platform (for whatever reason they deem fit) your business is essentially demolished overnight and you lose that income stream.

Social media platforms are rented virtual property. You must diversify your assets – just as you would in real estate. The same applies for social media.

Do not put all of your social media marketing eggs in one basket. You can not trust that these platforms have your best interest in mind.

Focus on creating owned media and always back up your content.

This article originally appeared in MarketWatch.

 


5 Misconceptions About Publicists & Public Relations

What does a PR firm do?

A publicist is responsible for generating exposure for your company and brand. Publicists help define your corporate public “persona” by crafting story angles, pitching stories to the media, coordinating interviews with journalists, writing fact sheets and electronic press kits, keeping updated media lists and monitoring your public image. Additionally, they help to craft that image and pitch strategic messages and storylines on behalf of you and your company.

However, there are many misconceptions about what publicists do and how they do it. Here are the top 5 misconceptions people need to understand about PR professionals:

PR MISCONCEPTION  # 1

Publicists have a….

MAGIC ROLODEX.  Clients believe that their publicists have a magic rolodex that they scroll through. While the traditional rolodex has been replaced with email lists and texting, the theory still remains the same. Publicists cannot email, call or text an editor and automatically get a story placed. That isn’t how real PR or journalism work. The publicist may have a very close relationship with a journalist, but if the story has no legs, there is breaking news, or the journalist simply doesn’t like the story idea, it’s not getting placed, and it doesn’t matter if you hired a Park Avenue PR firm or if you pitched the story on your own. The newsworthiness value of the story is all that matters. Breaking news dictates the storylines, and publicists pitch stories that tie into the news cycle. It is not the other way around. The media dictates what is covered- publicists do not.

PR MISCONCEPTION # 2

Publicists live a….

‘SEX & THE CITY’ LIFESTYLE. Another misconception is that publicists go out every night to events and are surrounded by glitterati and a Sex and the City lifestyle. As a publicist, I spend the majority of time in front of my computer writing, editing, pitching and communicating with clients and the media. Every time I am at a networking event, I could be missing an important email from a journalist who may be requesting an interview with my client or needs answers to their questions within the hour. This public perception of publicists going to glamorous events every night is outdated and unrealistic. Perhaps it is true in entertainment PR where red carpet events still reign supreme. But corporate and healthcare PR? Not so much.

PR MISCONCEPTION #3

Publicists… 

CONTROL THE STORY.  After you are interviewed by a journalist from a print outlet, the interview is done. Sometimes the media will have follow up questions and you can go back and forth several times. However, you cannot take back what you said, so be sure to think carefully before you shoot off a quick email or provide a sound bite.  As a general media relations rule of thumb to live by, when in doubt, keep it out!  Publicists can’t take your quotes off the record.   If you say something to a reporter that should have been off the record (or not said at all), we can’t fix it unless we are close with a reporter and even then there’s no guarantee. If you don’t want something in print — don’t say it. This is why media training is so important. Additionally, please don’t ask your publicist to ask the reporter to see a copy of your quote before it runs. This is not standard practice and the answer is most likely a resounding no. Earned media is not the same as paid media. You have to earn it for a reason.  When you pay for media, you control the narrative. When you earn media, you do not control the narrative, and neither does your publicist. They can certainly pitch an angle, but after you speak to a reporter, it is up to the journalists discretion on what the story is. Remember, it is their story, not yours! You are a source that adds subject matter expertise to something they are reporting on.

PR MISCONCEPTION #4

Publicists can…

FIX  REPORTING ERRORS. Occasionally, articles are published with a source’s name spelled wrong or some other minor error. You may think, “If my publicist was any good, they could get the reporter to fix the spelling of my name!” That’s not always the case. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  If the print edition has already gone to press, nothing can be done except for a correction that will run in a future issue. Any time I have asked a reporter to fix the spelling of a client’s name in a digital article, the request ends up annoying the reporter. In the old days of journalism, everything was fact-checked several times before it was published. Today that is unfortunately no longer the case with the rapid pace of digital journalism and the increased demand for content. So yes, while some publicists may be able to get the spelling of your name corrected, it is not guaranteed. It depends on the outlet and their editorial policy with corrections, not on your publicist’s ability.

PR MISCONCEPTION #5

Publicists can…

CONTROL GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS. People often ask if we can change Google search results for their company or personal brand. Perhaps one bad story or review tanked their corporate reputation, and they now want a publicist to fix it. A public relations program that incorporates organic earned media coverage does have the ability to alter search results. However, this is a long-term effort, and it is never guaranteed because it depends on so many outside factors including the domain authority of the sites that new coverage is secured on, and most importantly, the domain authority of the sites that the bad press is written on. Often, if those sites are ranked high, it becomes very difficult to lower the results, regardless of how many earned media placements you secure. Additionally, a digital advertising campaign and paid media would have to complement the PR efforts as part of the long term reputation management campaign to alter search results. Publicists can make a valiant effort at getting more positive coverage for you, but the one surefire way to change search results is through Google directly (or with the help of a good attorney that specializes in defamation).

 



NYC Social Media Strategist Kris Ruby on Fox News Discussing New Inclusive Language Guide

Social Media Strategist Kris Ruby of Ruby Media Group was recently on Fox News “Fox & Friends” Discussing Colorado State University’s new all inclusive language guide. To watch the full segment, click here. 

 

Should Marketers Adopt Gender-Neutral pronouns?

The Rise of Gender-Neutral Marketing Pronouns 

As marketers and copywriters, we take for granted using basic pronouns.

Of all of the copy changes we make on any given social media post, blog or ad, pronouns are typically not the first thing we think of.

All of that will soon change.

Think about every famous ad that includes pronouns that are now considered offensive. Take Maybelline for example. “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.”

In today’s political climate where PC language reigns supreme for brands, this ad would be considered offensive.

How would you rewrite that ad in a way that is no longer offensive?

And if you do rewrite it, does it still carry the same appeal?

The war on language will be the biggest thing to disrupt marketing.

The pronouns we take for granted will soon become obsolete in a world that is banning words and rewriting the language.

What do you think, marketers? Is this something you have been thinking proactively about with new ad copy?

Is this a good thing or a bad thing for marketing?