Are you amplifying your earned media success?

Todays’ post is by Hollie Geitner, Vice President of Client Services for WordWrite Communications of Pittsburgh, a fellow member firm of PR Boutiques International.

If you’ve been quoted in a positive news article about your industry, or your byline was recently published by a trade magazine, congratulations! You’re now a thought leader. This is a designation many aspire to, which is why it’s important you take the care and time to leverage that incredible placement as part of your overall marketing strategy.

The blurred lines between news media and digital channels mean that more and more people, including business leaders, utilize information they find on social media to influence their business purchasing decisions. And, despite the publicized erosion of confidence in the news media, the Cision 2017 State of the Media Report indicates that most audiences view a news story as more reputable and trustworthy than a company’s branded marketing materials.

So, if you have a great story, share it! Here are some ideas for leveraging your earned media hit: 

  1. Post it to your personal and company social channels and link to the publication or media outlet. 
  2. Share it with your internal team—including sales representatives. Encourage them to use the story when meeting with clients or prospects or share on their own channels. 
  3. Put some money behind a social post to receive more click-throughs. Facebook ads allow you to target your demographic so your content is seen by those most interested in your industry. 
  4. Publish a post on your LinkedIn page. The publishing platform is very user friendly. Spend a little time writing a post about your expertise and mention the publication that originally included you or your company. This is a good way to get more detailed than perhaps what was in the article. And, once you publish it on LinkedIn you’ll see how many people view, share or engage with your post.
  5. Mention the story in your customer newsletter and in communications to Board members and other stakeholders. 

Just like you would with your marketing efforts, have a plan in place to track the post metrics, such as likes, shares and engagement. Google Analytics, social platform dashboards and even paid services such as Trendkite make it simple to pull it all together so you can easily see the impact one great story can have on your company.

Remember, don’t toss that great media hit aside. Amplify it!

 

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Four Common Misconceptions about PR

The year is still young, and you may not have decided what to do to improve your company’s marketing for the coming year. You think PR may be the answer, and no doubt you would benefit from it.  But it’s a good idea to know what you want to accomplish with public relations – one of the most misunderstood of business functions.

Before you call a firm or hire a PR specialist, let’s dispel some common misconceptions about the practice.

  1. PR is about writing and sending news releases.  Think of a news release as the bread and butter that accompanies the meal.  It’s not the whole meal or even the main course.  Every business or nonprofit organization needs to begin any public relations program with a strategic plan – one that incorporates their overall goal, short-term objectives, target audiences, strategy, tactics and how success will be measured.  A news release is one of many tactics that may be used in carrying out the plan.
  2. PR is “free advertising.”  First of all, public relations and advertising messages are entirely different.  You can overtly promote your organization in an ad, while to obtain “earned” media coverage (coverage you don’t have to pay for), you must have a story – one that makes a worthwhile contribution to the editorial content of a media outlet.  Second, public relations work is not free; whether you are using in-house staff or an outside firm, you will pay for the time and talent that it takes to get recognition for your business.
  3. When interviewing a PR specialist, the first thing to ask is how our business would be promoted.   Every business or nonprofit organization is unique in some way, and no one PR plan will be right for each one. Ask that question of a PR firm, and you will probably get a series of questions in return or a request to meet and talk with you in person.  That’s because the answer to your question depends on all of the factors that will go into your company’s strategic PR plan (see #1, above).
  4. We need good PR to quickly counteract recent bad publicity.  Hiring a PR firm to put a positive spin on bad acts by your company is pretty much useless.  The truth has a way of coming out, and in today’s media climate it can be devastating to your business, as online and social media can reach millions of people before you can do anything about it.  The best way – perhaps the only way – to counter negative media coverage is to apologize immediately for any wrongdoing and begin a long-term program to repair the damage to your reputation.  And that PR program has to be based on good acts, or it won’t succeed.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Questions Top PR Firms Ask Their Clients

At the first meeting with your new PR firm, you may find yourself answering a lot of questions.  In the following post, our guest blogger, Lucy Siegel of Bridge Global Strategies, says there are five crucial questions you should be asked – and why they are important.

PR firms offering the highest quality of service ask their clients a lot of questions.  That’s the only way they can understand the best approaches to meeting their clients’ PR goals.

This blog post will focus on some of the questions a PR firm should be asking a client.  First, though, I want to emphasize that no questions should be off limits on either side.  We ask our clients a ton of questions in order to do our jobs as well as possible, and we expect and encourage clients to ask us anything they want to know.

1. What’s the background and history of your company, your founders and your CEO?  Some clients don’t understand why this question is relevant, especially when the assignment involves public relations for a product and not corporate PR for a company.

“Just focus on the product; you don’t need to be concerned with the company’s background,” some clients will say.  But PR involves piecing together a compelling story about a product or service that will resonate with the company’s various audiences (potential customers, communities, employees, suppliers, etc.).  Sometimes the story about the company can enhance the product story.

2. What are your goals for PR?  This question should always be asked by agencies and is crucial for starting any PR program.  Your goals may be simply to raise visibility as a precursor to brand building and sales.  Or you may be looking for a way to increase sales leads directly, to position the company in a new market, or address negative impressions of your company or product.  Getting media coverage, increasing the number of likes and followers, increasing the number of shares of company blog posts and articles, etc., are not goals for PR; they’re a means toward reaching the goal.

3. What do you picture as an ideal outcome of the work we’ll do?  Your answers to this question reveal a lot to your agency.  Sometimes company executives have unrealistic expectations about what PR can accomplish.  It may be highly unlikely that the PR team can get your product written about by the Wall Street Journal or any other top-tier media.  This is an issue that should be discussed at the beginning of a client-agency relationship because it’s very important for you to have realistic expectations about what to expect.  Unfortunately, some agencies deliberately mislead potential clients about their ability to deliver that type of outcome.

There may also be a disconnect between the outcomes you’re looking for and the goals you’ve expressed, which a good agency will point out and discuss with you.

4. Who, what, when, where, why and how?  These are the basics to any story, and the elements that public relations depends on.  They’re the questions journalists and bloggers will ask the PR agency staff working on your account and the focus of content marketing, social media and search engine optimization.  For example, here’s a vital “what” question:

  • What makes your product or your company different from your competitors’ products? If you’re looking for media coverage from your PR team, this is a crucial question.  The media is geared to gathering and reporting news.  If there’s nothing much to differentiate your product or company from others, it will probably be very difficult to get interest from the media in covering your story.  Other methods of PR may be more effective in those circumstances than media relations.

Just as parents think their own child is special, companies are often too close to their own stories to be objective.  Sometimes what the company feels is unique is really not a big enough difference from the competition to qualify as a true differentiation from a news viewpoint.  Trust the feedback your PR agency gives you.  The agency is able to be a lot more objective than your company’s staff, who are living and breathing your business day in and day out.

If a PR agency knows there isn’t a lot to differentiate you from the competition, the agency team can focus on creating news.  This can be done in many ways, including establishing new and different corporate initiatives within your community or for your employees, developing new data through a company-sponsored survey, or developing a news-making company-sponsored event.

For more on the definition of news (something that’s hard for many people to grasp), you may be interested in the this post I wrote some time ago, which directly addresses what the media consider to be newsworthy and what they don’t.

To better understand the challenges of getting media coverage in today’s media environment, you may also be interested in this blog post:

Clients must be forthcoming and honest in answering these basic questions, even if some of the answers don’t put the company in the best light.  If the agency doesn’t know the truth, all of the truth, it puts the agency’s PR team in a very bad position to work effectively.  Journalists will probe for answers and do research on their own.   If they’re given dishonest answers to their questions, they’ll think less of the company the agency is representing, as well as the PR agency people.

Sometimes internal corporate staff feel that it’s better for the PR agency not to know negative information so they won’t be able to spread it around.  But knowing honest answers doesn’t mean the agency PR team will provide that negative information to the media unless the client and agency have agreed that’s the best approach.  Some questions don’t have to be answered directly.  When a company just provides a rosy picture of the company and/or products, and leaves the PR team in the dark about the actual situation, it’s a recipe for PR failure.  One reason why:  the best approach for answering difficult questions from the media is to plan ahead for those difficult questions to come up and how to answer them.  PR professionals are well-prepared to help with those questions and answers, but can’t be helpful unless they know the whole truth, both negatives and positives.

5. What’s your budget?  This is a question that every PR firm should ask before preparing a proposal for you, and one that you should answer honestly.  Many potential clients tell us, “we don’t know what the budget is – we want you to tell us what we need to spend.”  What’s wrong with that picture?  The size of the budget will determine how fast your goals can be reached, and a PR program can be tailored to cover different levels of work.  An agency is put in a difficult position when that question goes unanswered.  If the agency makes an assumption that the budget is more than what the company can actually afford, it’s a waste of the agency’s time.  If the agency guesses on the low side, the proposal may not include as much PR activity as the client needs to meet PR goals.  Frequently we’re told, “Just give us a few different budget levels to choose from.”  That entails a lot of work with no compensation, all of which is in vain if the company decides on another agency or chooses not to move ahead with PR at all.  While developing proposals is part of the cost of doing business, asking for multiple proposals for the same project isn’t fair to PR agencies.

The reason many companies don’t like to reveal their budgets is the fear that they will be taken advantage of.  It’s a common corporate assumption that the agencies bidding on PR work will spend the maximum, whether it’s necessary or not.  However, in asking about budget, most agencies simply want to have information that will help them decide the type and scope of PR program that will work best given your budget.

Some of the questions PR firms ask clients and potential clients can only be answered by top management.  That’s one reason why PR professionals (internal and external) need access to clients’ top management executives.

Every company wants a top PR firm, one that can deliver results.  However, PR Professionals need a lot of information to be successful.

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Lucy Siegel is president and CEO of Bridge Global Strategies, based in New York City.

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Forming a Productive Relationship with Your PR Firm

Branding Brand Trademark Commercial Identity Marketing ConceptMost public relations firms that have been in business for a while have established relationships with long-term clients.  That’s no accident.  Lasting client/PR firm relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.  The client knows that the PR firm has its best interests at heart, will keep confidential information confidential, and can design and communicate strategic messages effectively.  The PR firm appreciates being part of the team – respected for its contribution to the organization.

How that relationship begins is the key to its success. Every PR firm has a responsibility upfront to explain their process for coming up with a strategy and implementing it, especially for a business or nonprofit organization that has never worked with a PR firm before.  Successful PR-client relationships begin with an understanding of what PR can do and how it can achieve the organization’s goals.

The client also has some responsibility for making the relationship a mutually beneficial one.  Here are three tips for clients who want to establish a positive, long-term relationship with their PR firm:

  • Let them show what they can do. Bring the PR firm in at the beginning of the relationship to inform them of your business goals so they can develop an effective communication strategy to achieve them. Expecting a PR firm to handle a series of communication tactics – news releases, brochures, ads – without allowing them to design the strategy behind them rarely works out well.  An outside PR counselor is trained to look for the “WIIFM” factor – the news significance or marketing message that you may not see as an insider.
  • Communicate. It may take some time to develop trust with a new PR firm, but if a firm has been in business for several years and has a good reputation and established long-term client relationships, that firm is probably trustworthy.  So share as much information as possible about your business, its successes and its failures. PR firms specialize in finding solutions to problems. Give them a chance to do so.
  • Be responsive. Too many great PR plans have been thrown off track by a client’s delayed response to a PR firm.  Timeliness in response to events, news, or a media interview request can mean the difference between gaining positive attention for your organization and missing out on a really great opportunity.

Posted by Margot Dimond.

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What Business Start-Ups Need to Know

PR firms often get calls from new business owners who realize they need help promoting their product or service to potential customers.  They see public relations as “free publicity” and an easy, inexpensive way to promote their new venture. However, many start-up businesses don’t have the budget to engage an outside PR firm, so they usually end up doing initial marketing work on their own – with various degrees of success.

If you are thinking of starting your own business, here are three PR/marketing recommendations that will increase your chance of success:

Calendar planning concept – Think about marketing before you open your doors.  To successfully sell your products or services, your business plan should include some essential information: what you are selling, who you are selling it to, why they would be interested in what you are selling, and how you will sell it. No one should ever begin a business without knowing all of these things in advance because once you open, there are two things that most likely will be in short supply: time and money.

Many new business owners have unrealistic expectations for how popular their product or service will be and how much marketing and PR they will have to do to gain attention. The intense information overload most people experience today makes it difficult to break through with your message. So realistic planning – both for execution and projected results – is essential.

59_Public-Relations – Public relations is more than media relations. Over the past 10 years, obtaining coverage in traditional media – newspapers, magazines, radio and TV – has changed considerably.   Consolidation of newspapers and broadcast outlets and the resulting cutbacks in reporting staff have made it much more difficult to get attention for your story idea or product release. To be successful, you may need to target media outlets specific to your community or consult a professional PR firm to navigate the media landscape.

If your budget is small and depending on the type of product or service you are          selling, you may want to investigate other means of promoting your business. Eblasts are effective, if you have the right list, and there are a number of email marketing programs that can help. Direct mail may seem outdated, but well-produced and targeted appropriately, it is still a relatively inexpensive marketing tool. Social media, if used judiciously, can spread the word quickly and easily.

reputation-management-new-york-300x300 – A good reputation is essential for long-term success. When you are trying to get your business off the ground, you may want to make a big splash right away. That big feature story in the newspaper or interview on television will give a big boost to your bottom line. However, good PR is more than that; it’s about building and maintaining a reputation over many years.

Once you get past the start-up phase, please keep in mind that, especially in this era of short attention spans and social media, nothing lasts forever and a reputation built over a number of years can turn sour overnight. At some point, you are going to need some expert PR assistance – whether in-house or through outside counsel. Don’t wait for a crisis; have a strategic program in place early on.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Choosing a PR Firm – Five Mistakes to Avoid

Businesspeople arguing in meetingHiring a PR firm can bring attention to your company, its services, products and people. But public relations is not a hit-and-run venture; long-term strategies combine with short-term tactics to create a strong brand and positive reputation. Therefore, it is to everyone’s benefit that the relationship between the client company and the PR firm is a lasting one.

Occasionally, however, the relationship doesn’t work out, and while there are often various reasons cited, the problem usually boils down to a flawed vetting process when the firm was first hired.

Avoiding the following pitfalls can lead to a truly successful collaboration between client and firm.

1.  Great Expectations.  Public relations is not a magical enterprise. It involves creativity, hard work and dedication to the client’s interests. And it often takes some time before you see results. What can happen in the first meeting between the PR firm and a prospective client is an unconscious collaboration: the client wants to think the public relations person can make his company successful overnight, and the public relations person lets him think this because he wants him as a client. This can only lead to disappointment on both sides. Most experienced public relations professionals will tell you what is – and is not – possible to achieve for your type of business and your budget. A long-term productive relationship is more satisfying for both the client and the PR firm than a short-term honeymoon.

2.  Choosing the Wrong Size Firm.  One frequent complaint that clients voice about their PR firm is that the top executives presented a wonderful proposal to them, but they rarely heard from those people again. Instead, their account was assigned to someone new to the firm, and they didn’t feel they got the attention – or the results – they deserved. PR firms survive for the most part on the billable hours that make up the client’s fee. If your company is paying a fee at the low end of a firm’s fee schedule, you will probably get assigned to one of its less seasoned staff. Larger firms usually charge higher fees to cover their higher overhead costs. PR firm fees can range from $5,000 to $30,000 per month or more, so if a fee of $10,000 per month seems like a huge expenditure to you, it’s best to choose a smaller firm.

3.  Not Knowing What You Want.  From the point of view of the public relations professional, the most difficult clients to satisfy are the ones who really don’t know what they want. Meetings abound, ideas are put forward and shot down – as the public relations person tries fruitlessly to read the client’s mind. In the end, everyone is frustrated. This outcome can be avoided with some advance planning. Before your first meeting with a firm, do some internal brainstorming and be ready to state your goals and the principal audiences you want to reach with your messages. If you are doing a small project, such as a brochure or website, show examples of the kinds of things you like, your current stationery or logos, and some of your competitors’ materials. You will save time and money by being prepared.

4.  Being Cagey about your Budget.  Some business owners think that if they talk about their budget upfront, the PR firm will “spend it all – and then some.” But the cost of public relations programs can vary greatly, depending on your goals and your budget. Be clear about both. If you outline goals that require extensive work with expensive outside services and act like money is no object, expect the PR firm to present a proposal for a big program that costs a lot – maybe more than you can afford. If you are honest about how much you have to spend, you have freed the firm to discuss what can be accomplished within your budget. Give the firm a chance to show you what they can do with a smaller budget. Then you will have a more accurate picture of the firm’s resources, creativity and capabilities.

5.  Hiding Negative Information.  When you are interviewing a PR firm, be open about the possibility of any negative publicity that may be on the horizon involving your company. Public relations people need to know these things – not just at the beginning, but throughout the relationship – in order to plan accordingly. Managing negative news is much more effective when done early on, before it festers and grows into a costly crisis.

Finding the right PR firm doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. Check with your local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Ask other business people for their recommendations, and visit the firms’ websites. Interview several firms to see if they might be the right size and have the right background and experience level to do the job. Ask for a written proposal. Once you feel comfortable that a firm understands your business, your budget and what will be needed to achieve your goals, take the plunge. You will probably be pleasantly surprised.

Article by Margot Dimond, originally published by ezinearticles.com

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The WII-FM factor: Do you know who your audience is?

Confusion2015 is now halfway over. How is your marketing program going so far? Are the people you are trying to reach – your audience – responding to your efforts to reach them?

The WII-FM factor, or “What’s in it for me,” is about the importance of communicating to your audience from their point-of-view.   If you are having difficulty reaching your audience, perhaps you haven’t correctly identified who they are and what they are interested in.

Spending time upfront identifying your audience is essential in deciding the best method of communication, as Lisa Dimond Vasquez explains here.homescreen_edited-1

 

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New PR Tools Prove Effective

social-toolboxTo many business people, public relations is still defined in terms of the “news release,” but it’s always been more than that.  It’s about creating and managing the reputation of a company or nonprofit organization through a well-defined communications strategy.  The news release is just one communication tool, and many new ones are being incorporated into the discipline every day.

Here are some things to think about for your next marketing campaign:

  • The Rise of Visual Content.  In recent surveys by PR tech firms Cision and Isebox, nearly two-thirds of journalists said they want press releases to give them easy access to photos, videos and graphics.  That makes sense when you consider that YouTube is the second most-visited social website after Facebook and infographics and other graphic representations are becoming ever more prevalent in communications.
  • Customized Messaging.  Customizing messaging for different audiences has always been an essential part of promoting your company and its products or services.  But it’s increasingly important today as audiences become fragmented by interest.  People now have access to a wide range of information, and they choose what kind of information they want and how they want to receive it like never before.
  • Native Advertising.  Digital media has given rise to a growing trend:  advertisements that are in the same format as the content audiences are there to consume.  They have proven to be more effective in generating click rates than traditional banner ads.
  • Inbound Marketing.  Inbound marketing is the process of drawing the right people to you – the people who are already interested in the topic you are addressing – through providing quality content on your website, blog, newsletter or social media platforms.  The key to producing good content requires not only good ideas but the ability to write about them in a compelling way.
  • E-Mail News Blasts.  Your employees can be your greatest sales force, but your internal audience is composed of more than employees.  Current clients, business partners, members of organizations you belong to, volunteers and donors (if you have a nonprofit organization) – it’s important to regularly stay in touch with all of them.  And e-mail has made it easier than ever.  After a lull during which businesses flirted with various social media platforms, e-blasts and e-mail newsletters are back in style.  Less expensive and time-consuming than printed publications (and more likely to be read), e-blasts can be sent with the latest news literally in the same day.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Defining Public Relations, Part Three: Telling Your Story

iStock_000012372602SmallEffective public relations often involves telling a story, and every organization – whether a business or charity – has a story to tell.  How you tell your story can make all the difference.  It must be true, meaningful and memorable.

A good story engages its audience as no other means of communication can.  As Pamela Rutledge says in an article in Psychology Today,  “when organizations, causes, brands or individuals identify and develop a core story, they create and display authentic meaning and purpose that others can believe, participate with, and share” (“The Psychological Power of Storytelling,” 1/16/11).

Not everyone, however, is adept at telling their organization’s story for a variety of reasons.  Here are some things that may prevent you from telling your story effectively:

  • You are too close to the story to see it clearly.
  • You are so used to talking to other people within your organization, you may assume everyone knows what you know.
  • You use insider jargon that is essentially meaningless to the outside world.
  • Your business has been operating for so long, you have forgotten your story – or, worse, it has become somewhat stale.
  • You’ve become rigid about how your story should be told.

Your story should be about what makes your organization special, how it came to be, and why its work is important.   Here are some essential elements of your story:

Organization.  Every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  The Beginning:  Talk about your background and how you saw some problem or area of service that you believed you had the answer to; The Middle: Explain how you decided to address the problem; and The End:  Talk about what your organization does now and why it is successful.  The computer industry is full of such stories:  think of Apple’s iconic founding by two guys in a garage, revolutionizing the computer industry.

Simplicity.  Your story does not need to be full of detail.  People who are interested in what you do will inquire about the details, and you can fill them in when they do.  Always have an “elevator” version – a brief synopsis when someone asks what you do at a conference, during a party, or, yes, from one floor to the next on an elevator.

Audience Friendly.  Your story should always be tailored to the audience you are addressing at the time.  For example, your presentation to the CEOs and managers of an industry should not be the same as a presentation to the people specializing in your particular profession.

Keep in mind that even if you tell your story in various ways to match your audience interests, the essential elements should remain consistent.  Repetition is the key to a company story becoming widely known.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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Defining Public Relations, Part Two: Planning for Success

Calendar planning conceptLet’s say you’ve hired a public relations firm, and you are about to have your first meeting.  Of course, the first thing you will want from the meeting is a list of everything they are planning to do for you in the next month, right?  Primarily, you will want to know who in the media they will be contacting about you and when they think they will have some results.

But you may want to step back and consider the following questions:

  1. Do I have a plan for the project or continuing service I have engaged this firm for?
  2. Do they have enough in-depth information about our company to pitch good, solid stories to the news media?

If the answer to each of these questions is “no,”  you really need to take the time during this first meeting to share as much information as possible and ask for a strategic PR plan before anything is done.  That way, you will know what success looks like for your particular PR program – and how to measure it.

Some things to consider during the planning phase.

  • What is my ultimate goal for this PR program?  What do you want to happen within the time-frame of the program?
  • Who is my target audience?  Who do you want to reach with your message?  There may be – and often is – more than one target audience.
  • What is my corporate message?  Your corporate message is what you want people to identify as the main thing your company does or your organization stands for.
  • What is our PR strategy?  A PR strategy is your “road map” for getting to where you want to be.
  • What are the tactics that will be used?  Tactics are the individual activities – marketing materials (brochures, website), media pitches, social media outreach, speaking opportunities, etc. – that are used to carry out your strategy.
  • What are the PR objectives?    These are the measurable benchmarks for you to gauge along the way whether or not your PR program is succeeding.
  • What is the timeline?  You should have a solid idea of what will be done and when, based on your input as well as the PR firm’s best estimates about when things can be accomplished.  Keep in mind that you, as the client, will need to be accessible for consultations and approvals all along the way to keep your timeline on track.  PR firms do not operate well in a vacuum, and most will not send anything out on your behalf without your prior approval.

You may feel that taking the time to plan will mean a serious delay in the implementation of your program.  Yes, there will be some delay, but it shouldn’t take more than a month to get everything on paper and ready to go.   Then you won’t be taking off on this new adventure without a road map.  You will have a really good idea of where you are going and how you will get there.

Next time:  Telling your story

Posted by Margot Dimond

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