Relations key to getting your business’s story published

Building solid relationships with the press is the golden ticket to getting that story published. Here are few tips to help you become a trusted member of the media:

Be Mindful of Language Blunders

Spelling counts, as does grammar and professionalism. You’re not sending a text to your best friend, your kid or your mom. One of the biggest pet peeves of journalists is misspellings, text abbreviations (“LMK” in lieu of “Let me know,” for example) and incorrect grammar.

These blunders spell laziness in the mind of a journalist. Take the time to run a spell check; use Grammarly, on online tool that essentially proofreads your copy and alerts you to errors; and read your e-mail, press release or document out loud to ensure that it’s properly structured and flows with ease.

Don’t Pitch the Wrong journalist

You’ve crafted a thoughtfully researched, compelling, error-free pitch and you’re anxious to see the fruits of your labor in print or on a website or blog with a robust, high-traffic readership.

And then you send it off to a journalist who doesn’t write—and will never write—about the topic at hand. It’s imperative to do your research, and that means reading a journalist’s work before you press the “send” button or pick up the phone.

There’s nothing that journalists hate more than receiving useless information. If you’re going to pitch a writer, make sure it’s someone who covers the relevant subject matter.

More important: Make sure your pitch is newsworthy. Another tip: read mastheads of magazines, newspapers and digital sites to determine the beat of their writers. 

Avoid Pitching Stories on Weekends

Unless you know for a fact that the reporter is a weekend writer or editor, avoid sending communication on Saturday and Sunday.

Journalists, like the rest of us, have lives, and it’s important to respect their time off the clock. Weekend pitching has other pitfalls: If you send an-mail on a Saturday, and it’s read, the journalist may well have forgotten it by Monday morning. By then, it’s often buried beneath a deluge of other pitches. Every reporter and publication has different deadlines, but according to a Business Wire Media Blueprint survey of more than 600 members of the media, Tuesday morning is typically the best time to pitch a story.

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Written cyber security and response plans: Just do it

Despite the rising threat, recent survey results show a surprisingly small number of agents are prepared, as most do not have a written cyber security and response plan.

A cyberattack is a malicious and deliberate attempt by and individual or an organization to breach the information system of another individual or company, seeking benefit from the disruption, ransom, or theft of data – and such attacks are increasing in numbers and complexity.

Despite the rising threat, recent survey results show a surprisingly small number of agents are prepared, as most do not have a written cyber security and response plan.

A written cyber security and response plan is essential to be prepared, organized and to execute appropriate and prompt actions when an attack occurs.

The plan does not need to be complex. To be effective, it should be simple and clear and present key information. It should also be built commensurate with the size of the organization.

Key elements of the plan must include:

  • Perform a risk analysis to mitigate all risks, covering administrative, technical, and physical controls. Simply put, this is what could be vulnerable, what could go wrong and what is or should be done to try to avoid or contain the threat(s).
  • The cybersecurity program must protect the security and confidentiality of nonpublic information, protect against threats or hazards to the security or integrity of information, and protect against unauthorized access.
  • Define a schedule for the retention of data and a mechanism for its secure destruction when data is no longer required.
  • Designate an individual, third party, or affiliate who is responsible for the information security program.
  • Be sure existing controls in place – access controls, authentication controls, and physical controls to prevent access to nonpublic information. Encryption (or an alternative, equivalent measure) should be in place to secure data stored on portable electronic devices and for data transmitted over an external network.
  • Identify and manage devices that connect to the network – a simple inventory.
  • Adopt secure development practices for in-house applications if applicable. Alternatively, obtain this assurance from your service provider that performs the development for you.
  • Use multi-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized accessing of nonpublic information.
  • Regularly test and monitor systems for actual and attempted attacks, maintain audit trails, and implement measures to prevent the unauthorized destruction or loss of nonpublic information.  
  • Keep up-to-date on emerging threats and vulnerabilities and provide ongoing training to employees to be sure they understand existing controls and why they are important; employees must know how to recognize and report threats.

The response plan must include the following elements to be effective:

  • Date of the cybersecurity event.
  • A description of how the information was exposed, lost, stolen, or breached,     including the specific roles and responsibilities of third-party service providers, if any.
  • How the cybersecurity event was discovered.
  • Whether any lost, stolen, or breached information has been recovered and if so, how this was done.
  • The identity of the source of the cybersecurity event.
  • Whether you filed a police report or notified any regulatory, governmental or law enforcement agency and, if so, when such notification was provided and by whom.
  • A description of the specific types of information acquired without authorization, which means particular data elements including, for example, types of financial information, or types of information allowing identification of the consumer.
  • Time period during which the information system was compromised by the cybersecurity event.
  • The number of total consumers affected by the cybersecurity event, or a best estimate.
  • The results of any internal review identifying a lapse in either automated controls or internal procedures, or confirming that all automated controls or internal procedures were followed.
  • A description of efforts being undertaken to remediate the situation which permitted the cybersecurity event to occur.

Don’t wait until an event occurs. It’s a chaotic time full of financial and emotional high stress. Do it now and provide yourself the peace of knowing you are prepared.

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Studies show that businesses should incorporate purpose and meaningful messaging into their branding strategies

Gone are the days when branding was limited to simply promoting a product or a business.

Today, companies are increasingly being challenged to incorporate a meaningful purpose into their marketing and advertising campaigns.

According to research, 75 percent of consumershere and abroad – expect businesses to contribute to their personal wellbeing and quality of life, while 84 percent expect brands to provide content that entertains, tells stories, provides solutions and creates experiences and events.

Purpose is especially important when marketing to millennials, 71 percent of whom say they’re partial to brands that implement environmental and social change into their campaigns.

A new biometric research report from Porter Novelli/Cone, published earlier this week, goes even further in suggesting that purposeful content should lead the narrative of your business.

“Purpose ignites physical and emotional responses: Purpose-driven advertisements were more effective in two-out-of-three brand categories tested, with higher levels of attention, emotion and arousal from these advertisements overall,” the study found.

In other words, businesses that are searching for ways to build – and maintain – customer loyalty would be wise to focus on purposeful messaging that supports, for example, responsible business practices, a charity or a social cause. 

Purpose builds deeper bonds

Other key findings in the report suggested that purpose builds deeper bonds.

A whopping 79 percent of Americans, noted the study, said they feel a deeper and more personal connection to companies with values aligned with their own. Moreover, respondents said they’d be more likely to feel better about brands with meaningful messages.

And that’s not all: “Purpose inspires brand advocates and amplification,” research showed.

After viewing purpose-driven advertisements, those who were surveyed also said they’d be more likely to talk about the advertisement and the brand with friends and family and share and discuss the advertisement on social media.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway, though, is this: Nearly 73 percent of respondents said that given the current social and political climate, they feel an urgency to support social issues, while 76 percent noted that businesses dedicated to addressing social and environmental issues helps them feel like they’re doing their part.

About the study

The research combined an online study of more than 1,000 American adults with the results of biometrics testing among a select group of respondents.

It measured facial, heart rate and skin conductance impulses that captured levels of emotion, attention and arousal/stimulation upon viewing a randomized set of advertisements.

Respondents viewed two ads from the same brand: a Purpose-driven advertisement (e.g., support of a social issue, responsible business practice) and an advertisement focusing on the functional attributes of the product (e.g., performance, features or specifications).

The research found that purpose-driven messaging has a greater ability to capture the physical and emotional attention of respondents compared to functional narratives.


Real Estate Corner
The rental market is heating up—and move-in incentives are few and far between

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If you’re exploring the rental market, it may be time to lower your expectations when it comes to landlord discounts, gift cards or complimentary amenities, writes Diana Olick, real estate correspondent at CNBC.com

As the rental market heats up and home ownership cools, rent prices are rising and freebies are falling out of favor.

Listings on HotPads, Zillow’s rental website, that mention at least one concession are down nearly 30 percent from the same time last year, and just one in 100 rental listings currently show any kind of move-in special.

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3 social media strategies to increase leads, likes and longevity

Remember the days prior to social media? Nor do we. Just about every business – big and small – has a designated social media manager or consultant that’s responsible for tweets, content posts, audience engagement, follows, shares, comments, insight and data reports and messaging.

It’s a big job that goes far beyond those “likes” and shares. To be a social media pro, you’ve got to master some skills.

Be creative: To stand out among your competitors, you need to create a dynamic and persuasive visual content across all your social media platforms.

Images, polls, invitations, posters, graphs, videos and illustrations don’t have to be in every post, but the eye loves visuals, and the more visuals you incorporate into your posts, the better chance you have of being noticed in what’s becoming an increasingly crowded field.

Canva, a user-friendly design tool, is terrific for creating Facebook photos and ads.

Inspire conversation: Interacting and engaging with your audience (think potential clients) is crucial to social media success – and that includes responding to comments in a timely manner.

Whether it’s a simple acknowledgement of thanks to someone who has responded positively to a post, a call to action for someone posing a question or a conversation starter that opens dialogue, you need to know how to foster communication.

That, in turn, encourages your audience to share your content, which increases your post’s longevity. And sharing content grows you audience and results in leads and “likes.”

To post engaging ads, take advantage of Facebook’s Ads Manager, a powerful tool that enables businesses to launch campaigns that reach a large audience.

Post real-time videos: Ask just about any social media pro to name the most influential social media trend of 2019, and the likely answer is live video.

Live video has the kind of human touch that doesn’t exist in text, and social media audiences can’t get enough of them.

Shooting spontaneous short videos on your smartphone and streaming them live on your social media platforms has become easier than ever with recent technological advances, and the content can range from entertaining to informative (or both). Live streams tend to be more personable and authentic than text posts, and studies have shown that social media audiences overwhelmingly prefer live video.


Real Estate Corner:
Homeowners Continue to See Housing as a Good Investment

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65% of
homeowners…

Sixty-five percent of homeowners nationwide view buying a house in their zip code as a “somewhat good” or “very good” financial investment, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Housing Expectations.

As well, existing homeowners are eager to invest more in their homes, says the report, noting that the percentage of homeowners expecting to invest at least $5,000 in their homes over the next one to three years continues to increase.

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Title Industry’s Cyber, Escrow Fraud Preparedness Needs Improvement

A national survey of title agents conducted by the American Land Title Association shows that our industry has farther to go when it comes to formalizing cyber and escrow security plans.

Results of the survey also hint that the threat landscape is becoming increasingly perilous for title agents, consumers and others involved in real estate transactions.

Of the survey’s more than 750 respondents, 63 percent said the number of cybercrime attempts targeting their company increased between 2017 and 2018. Roughly one-third of respondents also observed increases in fraud attempts targeting buyers, sellers and real estate agents over the same period.

Many title agencies have sought to combat the worsening cyber and escrow fraud threat by means of employee awareness.

More than half of respondents said their company reminds employees about the need to remain vigilant on about a weekly basis. More than 25 percent said those employee reminders are made on a monthly basis.

However, more than 20 percent of respondents reported that their company offers no training at all on cybercrime trends or red flags.

More troubling, however, is that despite the apparent increase in fraud attempts, just 62 percent of respondents said their company has a written cybercrime response plan.

Additionally, more than 40 percent of agents were not aware of or have not implemented ALTA’s Rapid Response Plan for Wire Transfer Fraud.

Smaller agencies — those with gross annual income below $1 million — were also somewhat less likely to have formal cyber response plans, wire retrieval plans or training programs than were larger agencies.

Survey results also show that cybercrime insurance coverage among title agents of all sizes is not as prevalent as one might expect given the apparent increase in fraud attempts. More than 27 percent of respondents said their company does not currently have a cybercrime insurance policy.

While most industry participants have made strides when it comes to protecting escrow funds and sensitive information, the survey clearly shows that gaps remain.

The survey also provides an opportunity for all of us to redouble our efforts, particularly when it comes to formalizing cyber response plans.

To help, we’ll be posting a blog series in the coming weeks that will provide simple, actionable tips for improving and formalizing response plans, as well as plans for wire retrieval and staff training.

We’ll also talk about the importance of cyber insurance and provide insight on how to get the right coverages for your business.

In the meantime, check out the growing library of cyber fraud resources on the Alliant National Education page. Alliant National agents can also watch our brand new Texas Continuing Education webinar on information and escrow security.

This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.

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