• 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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  • 05Jun

    The phone interview is dead. Long live the email interview.

    Okay, that’s an exaggeration. However, the email culture is eroding the old fashioned way of interacting with the press, and the way the press interact with their sources, including my clients. Although many reporters still call for quotes and information, more of them are emailing it in, asking for written responses only. This is good and bad for the PR industry.

    I am old enough to remember the days before email, when you had to actually pick up the phone and call a reporter and risk the wrath of interrupting him or her on deadline or getting the verbal cold shoulder – “Not another ^&^&$##@ flack pitch call!” One of the good things about phone work is that it forces you to really do your job and know your stuff, or rather your client’s stuff. You had to be prepared before you dialed with a concise elevator pitch,explaining who you are and why you are calling. You also had to be prepared to read the mood coming over the phone wires: “Is this a good time?” “Are you on deadline?” Can I just a minute to explain why I am calling?” To work the phones you had to be on your game, with a smile in your voice and information at your fingertips.

    trash-mailEmail has changed all that. Now there is more back and forth. More time at the front end of the process to hone your pitch and get it right in writing before you hit the “send” button. There also is more time at the back end to hone your responses and tailor what you say. That’s the good news.

    The bad news is that email doesn’t promote relationship building. It doesn’t provide a chance for dialogue, or for exploring new opportunities or points of discussion beyond the topic at hand. Email tends to be very transactional and lacks color by its very nature, so the challenge is to make your point in writing in a way that is memorable and repeatable, especially if you are trying to do an email interview.

    Email also allows reporters to ignore you in a different way. I can’t think how many pitches or messages dropped into a bit bucket somewhere along the way. Either the reporter on the receiving end marked it as spam, or deleted, or just plain missed it. One of the challenges about email is that it’s easier to pitch reporters, even it it’s a bad pitch. Every ill-formed hey-do-you-want-to-interview-my-client pitch racks up with the hundreds of other pitches in the reporter’s email inbox.

    However, email is becoming more prevalent for interviews, even if it is not necessarily more efficient. I can’t think how many times I have seen a HARO or Profnet request stating “Email responses only, no phone calls please.” But email is an efficient way to deal with logistical issues and other concerns. If you can’t get your client on the phone or you can’t get schedules to align, the time shifting enabled by email could be your only solution. I recently had a challenge interviewing a customer in Moscow for a case study. There was an eleven hour time difference and even when we tried to schedule a call at midnight my time, we couldn’t seem to get together so we resorted to an email interview.

    Some argue that email interviews are lazy and irresponsible. How can you be sure you are getting an unbiased story without a chance to ask candid questions? Doesn’t an interactive exchange both assure better quality information and less bias? There is an argument to be made for that, as stated by Alison Kenney who blogs for PR recruiter Lindsay Olson of Paradigm Staffing:

    A couple of well-regarded blogs have commented on this practice [of email interviews] recently, although mostly from the perspective of the media.

    American Journalism Review wrote about the practice from the journalists’ and editors’ point of view (which is well worth a read). The post expresses concern that email interviews “promote lazy reporting and the use of unreliable sources…”

    PR Daily recently asked, “Is the phone interview dead?” and lamented the lack of color an email interview has in comparison with a phone interview, as well as the lack of natural “back and forth that comes from a conversation. Plus, there’s no personal relationship building, however slight, when everything is done in written form.”

    In response to the PR Daily post, Clay Ziegler did his own experiment and called a dozen working journalists to quiz them about their interview method preferences. He concluded that the phone interview lives and why that’s a good thing.

    Like most changes wrought by new technology (and social media, in particular), old practices may not go away, but new practices – including using IM, Twitter, Facebook and email to get information and quotes for a story – are becoming more and more accepted.

    Alison offers some insights into what to look for when dealing with an email interview and I recommend you read her blog entry.

    Times change, and best practices change with them. New technology enables new approaches and procedures, for good and ill. However, just because we have the means doesn’t mean we should always use them. I am reminded of the texting phenomenon; the balance of having my wife send a text reminder to pick up something at the store versus the teenagers sharing the same couch and texting back and forth rather than having a conversation. Sometimes technology just gets in the way. The same is true with email interviews. They have their place, but there are times when you just need to pick up the phone.

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