• 04Feb

    Public relations professionals have always been storytellers. Our job has traditionally been to identify the interesting storyline in the client’s company or product and articulate that story to reporters, editors, and analysts, who in turn will report it to their audiences.

    The rules of professional storytelling have changed.

    Now, instead of pitching stories to the media, we are more often telling stories to help clients attract customers. More magazines are abandoning print in favor web publishing. And with this transition, we are seeing more B2B and consumer media sites that are hungry for fresh content, and fewer journalists and staffers producing articles. The void is being filled by contributors from all areas, especially PR and business. As Christopher Penn, Vice President of Marketing Technology at Shift Communications, writes:

    “As traditional media either evolves or dies, the traditional media relations-only model of PR will evolve or die with it. Public relations work will transform more into earned, owned, and paid media generation, and PR professionals will find themselves increasingly doing work that transcends the traditionally rigid boundaries of earned, owned, or paid media.”

    As professional storytellers, trained PR professionals are in a better position to create quality content  that is more relevant to our client’s market audience. With the explosion of online content designed to drive SEO, our job today is to help the client tell their story in a compelling way to build audience loyalty, not just create link bait. Effective storytelling builds market audience and promotes audience loyalty by delivering relevant and valuable information.

    Effective PR can drive brand messaging. If your client has a strong value story, it will influence your storyline and permeate all aspects of the client’s content strategy, from the web site to social media to white papers. Smart marketers often start with the PR strategy to develop market messages that can then be applied to the rest of the marketing program.

    Once you have a strong storyline, you can tell the story again and again in different formats. Repurposing content using well-thought-out messages across different media will promote a consistent brand identity and, if you do it right, engage your target market on multiple levels. What starts out as a press release or press pitch should become a blog post, white paper, social media post, or take whatever form makes sense to reinforce the message and reengage the audience.

    Producing relevant content should create a customer feedback loop. As you disseminate new content through various channels you can measure customer engagement by monitoring which channels drive different kinds of traffic. The more you uncover about how your audience engages with the content, the more relevant you can make that content.

    It’s a brave new world for PR and that means developing new skillsets to help keep your clients’ stories relevant and engaging. Think beyond the old media relations strategy and embrace audience engagement. Learn more about SEO, paid placement, new content applications and formats, and how to apply new tools to drive market awareness. Those who can adapt and shape the inbound marketing strategy will be able to demonstrate real client value in measurable ways.

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  • 30Jan

    I have been working with more start-ups and smaller businesses who have been trying to harness inbound marketing using press releases as well as other strategies. News releases still carry a lot of weight with search engines for SEO, and they can be useful for blog fodder and to feed social media channels. However, not every press release is newsworthy, although they really should be.

    In the drive to promote search engine visibility, companies, or more specifically the marketing executives within those companies, have forgotten the first rule of press release writing; ask yourself, “Is it news?”

    Recently I have been receiving more requests for non-news news releases, such as having a “cool” product or adding a new social video to your website. While these types of events may have great import to your company, you have to ask yourself if anyone outside the organization will find the news of interest. If not, it ain’t news.

    Inbound marketing is driven by good content, which means good storytelling. There are any number of formats you can use to tell a good story: a case study, blog post, opinion piece, “how to” article, etc. And while all press releases should tell a good story, not all stories make worthy press releases. Here are just some of the criteria that journalists use to determine news value:

    1. Timeliness – It it’s now, it’s news. Events that are interesting and happening now are newsworthy. When you release a new product, for example, it’s newsworthy the day you release the product, not two months later.

    2. Something new – A new approach, a new standard, a new product, a new hire, a new headquarters; these are all newsworthy because they are new.

    2. Conflict – Industry conflict or the fact you or your company takes a stand that is the polar opposite of an industry leader could be newsworthy.

    3. David vs. Goliath – I hear a lot of clients say they want a David and Goliath story, where they want to take on the big guys and do something they can’t. In the minds of the media, the David vs. Goliath story usually takes the form of fighting for the underdog. Reporters often see themselves as protectors of the truth, and the voice of the disenfranchised, so David needs to be wronged by Goliath to make the story newsworthy. If you are looking for a B2B David-and-Goliath story, then you need to prove that you did something significant that the big competitors could not.

    4. Statistics – Reporters love statistics, particularly if they highlight a trend or shed light on a hot industry topic. If you have statistics that demonstrate market or thought leadership, or make a case for your market strategy, a news release is a good way to get the word out.

    5. Milestones – For public companies, industry milestones such as mergers, earnings, etc., need to be disclosed to the market, and press releases are a good way to do that. For private companies, sharing insight about new customers, earnings, and business operations make you look like a public company, and often get published.

    6. Something that impacts your world – If the news has an impact on your customers or industry, then it is press release-worthy. For example, a new industry standard, or a company acquisition, or even a webinar with insights about what the future might hold will be of interest to someone out there, and so it’s worth disclosing.

    There are a number of other events that reporters love to cover, but most of them involve scandals, disasters, and bad news that you wouldn’t want to package in a news announcement (although you should be prepared with a crisis communications plan).

    Remember that people don’t share sales pitches, but they do share stories. Make sure your news release has a story worth hearing and worth sharing.

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  • 18Dec

    I just received the end-of-the-year wrap up from my friends at High-Tech Connect, including some predictions on what’s going to drive marketing budgets in 2013. The insights, taken from their own observations and the results of a survey by StrongMail as reported in MarketingProfs, indicates that social media and online search are going to continue to drive marketing programs in the year ahead. And when it’s all about feeding the Web, those who can deliver the content are going to benefit.

    According the the StrongMail "2013 Marketing Trends Survey", social media is commanding the lion’s share of marketing dollars (46.2 percent). Spending is going to Facebook, viral marketing, Twitter, and the means to manage those campaigns.

    Here’s how MarketingProfs explains how the social media channels stack up:image

    Marketers rank Facebook as the most valued social media channel (receiving a score of 1.92 on a scale of 1 to 8 with 1 being most important). Twitter is No. 2 (2.76), followed by YouTube (3.48), LinkedIn (4.30), Google+ (4.68), Pinterest (5.06), Instagram (6.53), and Yelp (7.27).

    What do all of these social media channels have in common?

    They are all hungry for content.

    Here are some of the coming trends in marketing according to the survey findings (with editorial interpretation from High Tech Connect and myself):

    • Executive as brand is being driven by social media. The concept of “executive as brand” is not new, just ask the folks at Virgin or Apple, and as executives continue to gain visibility, social media will increasingly become their megaphone to speak to their target customers. Those executives who learn now to establish a rapport with their market base, without pretention or a sales pitch and with humility and authenticity, will come out ahead. The wise ones will look for help from strong communicators and writers who can help them package and polish their personal brand.
    • Content is still king! Social media is hungry, and needs to be fed regularly to entice followers to continue to follow. And search engines and online visitors need fresh information to keep then interested. Marketers will be seeking out new content sources, including written material, audio, and video, to keep social media sated.
    • Mobile is moving up. More folks are accessing information while on the go, using smartphones and tablets to access data and social media wherever they are. Mobile marketing is following the trend, and while more companies embrace BYOD and enable the new mobile workforce, professionals are turning to their handhelds to deliver up-to-the-minute, business-critical information.
    • The tried and true is tired. Interestingly, the tried and true programs, like public relations and direct mail, are taking a back seat. Public relations is down to 13.9 percent of the budget, and direct mail 15.5 percent.

    So as marketing programs continue to find new channels to reach consumers and potential customers directly, through conversation and social media content. So to feed these tactical programs, professionals will need more writing and content development services capable of keeping up with social media marketing demand. That’s where we come in; helping our clients tell their story and talk to their customers with customized content that is compelling and that promotes conversation.

    Happy holidays and here’s to a prosperous 2013 for all of us.

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