Review of SHIFT Communications Blog
Overview of SHIFT Communications blog
SHIFT Communications is an integrated communications agency based out of Boston, San Francisco and New York. It started in 2003 as a traditional PR firm, but was an early innovator in social media. According to its website, SHIFT helps companies “find, build and convert new audiences that drive business growth.” In 2012, the company switched to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) format, investing all staff’s interests directly into the company’s financial future. In 2013, it won Holmes Report’s Small Agency of the Year. SHIFT is run by CEO Todd Defran, whose own blog, PRSquared, is also mentioned on top PR sites and provides links back to his company’s blog.
The SHIFT blog was listed on Cision’s 2013 Top 50 PR Blogs and Inky Bee’s Top 60 PR Blogs in the World. Written by SHIFT staff members, from marketing analysts to the vice president, the blog covers topics both relevant to public relations professionals and their clients in a straight-forward, this-is-how-pr-is-done, way. They set realistic expectations, speaking plainly on what can be expected from their, or any other, firm.
The posts are timely, easy to follow and sometimes even a little fun, like predicting Academy Award Best Picture based on data research, or what PR professionals can take away from Scandal’s Olivia Pope. Topics covered span public, crisis and media relations, social media and the benefits of paid-for strategies. SHIFT often does its own research, like figuring out if a Facebook target audience yields a better tangible outcome than a Twitter tailored audience, and posts the results on their blog. They also mention a variety of tools and services, like Google Analytics and AdWords, Outbrain, Taboolah, Feedly and Chatter, provide links to them, and explain their uses and benefits. As you get to the bottom of a post on the blog, a “You Might Also Like…” tab appears, linking you to another related post, hooking you to keep reading.
Although it is plastered at the end of every post and lives on the side of the page, the “How Social Media Broke PR and How to Fix It” e-book by SHIFT’s Vice President of Marketing Technology, Christopher S. Penn, is informative and free when you register. The 42 pages are a quick and easy read, walking you through the importance of using social media to grow your audience, and that, to do so, creating quality content that people will want to share with others is vital. There are other e-books, including “Paid Earned Owned Shared: The Media Recipe for Audience Conversion.”
SHIFT is very active on social media, not only posting on its blog daily, but also providing useful information and links to followers on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, even if it doesn’t directly relate to the company. They offer a weekly newsletter, SHIFT Happens, that gets delivered right to your inbox. There are links not only to the SHIFT website and blog, but also to webinars and events focusing on PR.
There is no list of topics, just a search bar, so you kind of have to know what you’re looking for and wade through the results. Some of the results link you directly to the company’s take on that topic, and some are blank dead ends. The repetitive sight of the e-book reminder is a bit annoying, especially since when you actually download it, the ad doesn’t go away. There are a few posts that tell you what you need to do, like increase a product’s shareability to help increase word-of-mouth marketing, but no mention of tips for how to achieve that end.
Applications to Media Relations
While the blog does stress the importance of hitting all forms of media, it does tend to focus more on social than traditional. In this increasingly digital world, more people are turning to social media for their news, so a media relations specialist needs to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and methodologies. SHIFT makes it clear that someone sharing an opinion about your brand or company on Twitter or Yelp could snowball into a Google search result, a media story excerpt, a blogger post. Media relations professionals need to know how to stay ahead of the curve.
SHIFT blog really runs the gamut of what steps to take before and after the media relations efforts are made, more so than focusing on the process of contacting and pitching to media representatives. SHIFT’s Earned Media Hub Strategy focuses on research and aligning content messaging with a company’s core values before reaching out for coverage. It sounds simple, and it is, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics.
The after, measurement, is focused on quite a bit, with posts walking readers through analytic topics like “Google Analytics 101” and “Earned Media Might be Invisible to Your Web Analytics,” and an eight-part “How to Measure PR” series covering both social media and standard media metrics. Once you’ve made your media efforts and your message is out there, knowing how to measure it can be tricky, and SHIFT offers help.