• 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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  • 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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  • 21Nov

    There are probably still a few skeptics out there who question the value of social media. For those naysayers, I will point you to recent news reports that companies are demanding to retain social media contact from fired employees. Clearly some companies see real value in social media intellectual property.

    I recently rand across a post by Cynthia Boris, who blogs under The Marketing Pilgrim, that poses the question, “Are Twitter twitter-confidentialfollowers a company asset?” Are social media contacts considered proprietary information, like a customer list or competitive information? Apparently that premise is being tested in the U.S. courts, as Boris explains:

    But what about your Twitter account? In the case of an employee whose job it is to update the company Twitter, it’s an easy call. It’s not so easy when you’re talking about journalists or other Tweeters who blur the line between business and personal.

    Such a case is currently being tested in court, but it’s not going so well for either side. The case in question is between PhoneDog and Noah Kravitz, who used to work for them as a reporter. The object of desire is a Twitter account with 17,000 followers formerly known as @PhoneDog_Noah.

    According to the original news report, “a federal judge in San Francisco refused to dismiss news site PhoneDog’s complaint which argued that a Twitter password and the identity of followers was a trade secret.” Apparently Kravitz merely changed the name of his account from PhoneDog_Noah and kept tweeting. So who owns those contacts? Is it the same as a journalist’s sources, which go with him when he leaves a job?

    lockedoutThere is a similar case for LinkedIn contacts being tested in the U.K. for the first time, a British court is reported to have ordered an employee to turn over his LinkedIn contacts to an employer. According to the report in the Telegraph, this case “highlights the tension between businesses encouraging employees to use social networking websites for work but then claiming that the contacts remain confidential information at the end of their employment.”

    Now it’s one thing if you were hired to promote the company using social media as one of your forums. I can understand where it becomes part of your job description and the content, including the contacts, would revert to the company. But what if you are using your own contacts and your own network as an extension of your job? Does that mean you have to surrender your contact information for Aunt Millie or the High School Class of 1985 because you got fired?

    Commenting on the UK case for Forbes, guest columnist David Coursey notes:

    Meanwhile, more and more companies are issuing policies, and asking employees to sign contracts and agreements, that spell out who owns social media contacts. According to a recent study by DLA Piper, a third of employers have disciplined employees for something posted on a social media site. The research also found that 21% of employers had to give their employees a warning for posting something derogatory about a colleague or about the business itself.

    One thing is clear, it’s time to start updating your contracts, whether you are working as a full-time employee or as an agency or consultant. Intellectual property is becoming increasingly valuable, and they could be an increasingly valuable asset that should follow you as you build your personal network to further your own career or advance your business. If you are going to use social media as part of your job, be sure you understand who owns the social media content and the contacts. If there is a doubt, duplicate – create a professional social media persona and a personal persona and keep them separate (although you might enlist the same followers to track both accounts). But whatever you do, be sure you know where you stand with your clients or employers. If you aren’t sure, ask! It’s better to come to an understanding now rather than getting into a tussle later.

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  • 11Sep

    An interesting discovery came to light this week that may give all those self-proclaimed social media gurus pause. According to new research conducted by URL-shortening service bitly, the average shelf life of a social media post is about about three hours. I originally spotted this tidbit in a repost from HubSpot, which offered its own insights:

    By calculating what bitly is calling the link’s ‘half life’ (the time it takes a link to receive half the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak), bitly evaluated the persistence of 1,000 popular bitly links, and found some strikingly similar results.

    Half Life Research Results

    • The mean half life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours.
    • The mean half life of a link on Facebook is 3.2 hours.
    • The mean half life of a link via ‘direct’ sources such as email or instant messaging clients is 3.4 hours.
    • The mean half life of a link on YouTube is 7.4 hours….

    image

    From this, bitly concludes that when it comes to the lifespan of a link (if you exclude YouTube from the equation), it’s not where the link is shared that matters; instead, it’s more important what the link shares (the content) that has the potential to attract more clicks and engagement.

    So what does this mean for marketers? HubSpot’s conclusion is that you need better quality content to promote engagement. That’s only part of the equation.

    I think of successful social media engagement as encompassing the three C’s: Content, Conversion, Community. The quality of the content drives conversion to build a following. It’s no surprise that social media content is short-lived. That’s the idea, and I often counsel my clients that social media content is highly perishable, so while it is important to think before you post, agonizing over the perfect tweet or a Pulitzer-worthy blog post can run counter to the purpose of social media – to provide easily digestible sound bites that add to the online conversation while promoting your perspective, i.e. your brand. The trick is to give those sound bites enough impact to promote resonance.

    So with this new revelation from the bitly research, marketers need to rethink their online activity in light of the three C’s:

    1. Content – The quality of the material does promote interest and engagement, so be sure you post quality information in order to gain the trust of your audience and give them something they can share with their own social media followers.

    2. Conversion – Whenever possible, give followers an ongoing reason to engage. If your material is consistently informative or entertaining, or particularly poignant about a specific topic, you will be able to convert readers into followers. Which leads to the third “C.”

    3. Community – If you can build an audience then they will share the wealth, and as a byproduct promote your brand. You want to build a loyal following who is willing to engage with you and spread the word.

    So even though your specific social media efforts have a relatively short half-life, the lasting impact should be felt through resonance. Whatever stone you choose to throw into the social media pond should produce ripples that will be felt long after the original post has been archived.

    And, of course, there are more tangible benefits, such as searchability. Everything posted on the web is discoverable, and even when the immediate echoes of a social media post fade away, that original content is still there to be rediscovered either by search or happenstance. The Internet has a long memory, and social media just feeds the discoverable archive, so even if the shelf-life of a post is an average of a few hours, that post still becomes part of the discoverable web, so you never know when some Internet archaeologist will uncover you post for some future purpose.

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