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Content marketing basics, social media trends

content marketing

The journey to success in communications, marketing and public relations starts with the basics.

If you want to have a successful communications, marketing and/or public relations campaign or program, you must start with the basics. That beamed through clearly in talks this week by Krista Neher of Bootcamp Digital at Cincinnati IABC and Daniel Brockdorf of Caesar’s Entertainment at Cincinnati AMA. It’s vital to build upon those basics by implementing the latest and greatest available.

Brockdorf spoke about driving customer loyalty through content and measurement. It was interesting hearing how successful organizations start with the fundamentals to break through the ever-growing clutter of loyalty programs. As you can imagine, it can get quite sophisticated as marketers perfect the science of analyzing big data and delivering content at the precise point that an individual is receptive to it. But, as Brockdorf stated: It all starts with the basics… and many skip or shortcut the following steps for various reasons. They include:

1. Purpose
2. Audience
3. Message
4. Channel
5. Frequency
6. Execution

Neher, meanwhile, shared 10 new strategies and tools for social media. She covered trends and topics, such as:

1. Sharing your story in a faster, more relevant way. People are overwhelmed, so you’ve got to get to the point.
2. Keep it short. In this era of Twitter and Vine, you must connect quickly and poignantly.
3. Real-time communication. If you wait, the story goes on without you. Speed is of the essence.
4. Real photos and real stories. User-generated content helps people buy into your messages. Only 14% trust ads, while 78% trust referrals.
5. Instagram and visual content. Our brains process images much more quickly than text.
6. Pinterest. Be creative with this visual social network. For example, use it as a resource guide for your target audience instead of forcing people to dig through your website.
7. Be interesting. Present content in a positive, compelling manner. Don’t be boring, or dull!
8. Be prepared to spend money on social media. It’s not just an earned or owned channel for interacting with your key audiences.
9. Stop talking about yourself. Get other people to talk about you. Partnerships are important.
10. Infographics. Include them in your marketing and communications mix. They can convey a lot of information quickly and are very sharable.

Both speakers went into detail about all of the above points. But, as Krista advised, I’m going to keep this brief!

 

 

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Back to the basics: Earned, Owned and Paid media can help build trust, likability

Content marketing, brand journalism, SIMEngage

Lots of great presentations and conversations at the SIMEngage conference in Cincinnati. Got me thinking about the basics.

Sometimes, I find my mind swimming in facts and details. It seems I’m always reading a half-dozen books about PR and marketing, attending meetings and conferences, viewing blog posts and videos… My mind feels like it’s on overload.

Then, a brief chat with someone will bring me back to the basics. That happened during a break in the fantastic SIMEngage conference this week in Cincinnati. While sipping coffee and connecting, a friend and I agreed on these points:

Basic No. 1 — People do business with those they know, like and trust.

Basic No. 2 — Earned, Owned and Paid media are great avenues for achieving No. 1. Earned media is traditional PR — pitching stories to TV, radio, magazine, digital journalists and bloggers. Owned media is going direct to your audiences via your own blog, newsletter, YouTube channel, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. And Paid media is advertising. (By they way, the speakers at SIMEngage did a great job of explaining the confluence of all three under the umbrella of Content Marketing.)

Basic No. 3 — If you want to understand how social media works, you need to set up a LinkedIn account (or Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever) and devote some time to it. You can’t have someone just tell you about it. You have to participate to learn.

Sounds pretty, eh, basic. Not for some people outside of the PR, marketing and digital worlds. We can provide great value by helping them better understand the basics.

In fact, if anybody wants assistance with any of the above, please contact me. I’d be glad to help you achieve your goal.

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of Research in your brand journalism strategy

Communication Planning

If you researched Cincinnati, you would learn about landmarks such as Fountain Square, the Carew Tower and Roebling Suspension Bridge. Research is the first step in the strategic planning process, as important in developing an effective communication plan as it is in deciding what to see on a trip to a new destination.

Imagine going on a trip to a new city. You might Google the city’s name, look on Wikipedia, browse through travel guides, talk to friends who had been there before… You might find out about the cool restaurants, landmarks and aspects that align with your interests. You might do some homework, some research before planning what you could want to do.

Or, let’s say you were the coach of a football team getting ready for your next game. You would probably watch video of your opponent from the matchup a year earlier and in games this season leading up to the contest. You would confer with scouts who had seen the competition. You would view media coverage. Etc. You would do your homework, your research, while developing a game plan.

It’s no different with planning a strategic brand journalism program!

If you are Accredited in Public Relations (APR), you know well that Research is the first step in the strategic process: Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation. And that there is Primary and Secondary Research.

Primary Research involves one-on-one interviews, surveys, focus groups and the like.

Secondary Research includes a review of articles and video about a topic, studying what others have done to solve the problem under consideration, conferring with professions in your networks, etc.

Both are very important, as you move on to the Planning phase.

Example — I feel extremely fortunate to have been involved in a foster parent recruitment campaign that was deeply researched. My role involved researching portions of the campaign that would help build buy-in from internal audiences. You would think that social workers would be very enthusiastic about a $1 million campaign designed to attract 200 badly needed foster parents. My research showed the opposite. Many of the workers expressed cynicism about the planned campaign. They didn’t support the strategy. They feared it would bring in “wide-eyed suburban do-gooders” not suited for the demanding (yet rewarding) role of foster parenting. They were bad-mouthing it!

So, we came up with a multi-faceted campaign that included a brief weekly e-mail with four key points for frontline managers to share with their teams. We asked frontline managers to address concerns and share them with us. We identified who the go-to team leaders and caseworkers were — those that most social workers trusted and admired, not necessarily those with high ranking on the org chart. We took the time to educate them and listened to their concerns, so they could serve as positive ambassadors for the campaign. We held an event, with food and a “sneak preview” of the TV commercials and print ads. When caseworkers complained that they wanted Whitney Houston music instead of Sarah McLachlan, we did focus groups with the target audience — which loved the music — and shared the findings with the social workers. We did surveys to see if social workers grasped key messages and were supportive. As the campaign generated results, we took environmental portraits of new foster parents for spotlighting in our newsletter, on our intranet and in a gallery in the cafeteria.

This was a campaign where we had the time and money to do it right. It went to the top of our priority list, and leadership supported us in putting secondary priorities on temporary hold. It won some awards… and, most importantly, met the goal of attracting 200 foster parents.

But, my point is, it all started with Research. Just like when you’re researching a trip to a cool place like Cincinnati!

 

Just what is this thing called Brand Journalism? And why do I like it?!

April 26, 2014 2 comments
My wife and I have made a living doing brand journalism (aka content marketing).

My wife and I have made a living doing brand journalism (aka content marketing).

Every now and then, you get some clarity. You find something that sums up precisely what you have been trying to convey. That happened for me this week when I read this entry by Ann Wylie in Public Relations Tactics (April 2014):  

“Content marketing — aka brand journalism — is relevant, valuable and interesting information that you publish, post or present in owned, not rented, media. Instead of pitching your products and services, content marketing messages position your organization as an expert in your field. Not just blog posts and status updates, content marketing includes conference speeches (and your coverage of them), bylined articles, marketing magazines and e-zines, and more.”

That’s it! That’s what I do, and plan to do for years to come: Brand Journalism!

In recent years, I’ve defined myself as a “public relations professional with social media experience” or a “digital strategist.” I’ve tried to weave in my experience with content strategy for websites and intranets. I’ve spoken about my passion for social media and love of internal communications. I’ve talked about how I get great satisfaction out of researching, planning, implementing and evaluating strategic communications plans that support business goals.

Yes, I am a public relations professional. I do have social media experience. I have worked on digital strategy, although I like to pull in experts to assist with technical aspects such as web design, SEO and online advertising.

So there you go: I’m a Brand Journalist! That’s my passion. It’s my sweet spot… my groove.

It makes sense, really. I worked as a newspaper and editor for a dozen years before entering corporate and then government and then, again, corporate PR/communications/marketing. Heck, I started covering basketball games for my hometown newspaper as a 15-year-old. My dad drove me to my first assignment.

I feel in the flow while developing a strategic communication plan — and then pulling together content that helps educate, inform and entertain key audiences, those that could make or break my employer.  It gets my juices flowing writing a human interest article or Q/A with a thought leader; collaborating with a creative designer, photographer or videographer; tracking viewership and getting feedback for improvement…

I think that’s why I did internal communication for so long. It was so cool to segment audiences, foster two-way communication with them, integrate an intranet, town hall meetings, e-mails, broadcast voice mails…

Then, social media came along — and I got the great fortune of tapping its power to build mutually beneficial relationships via blogs, web chats, YouTube, streaming video and social networks. I experienced how the online supports the offline, how setting up a strategic speakers bureau integrates with a continuing series of web chats. Meantime, I saw my wife help many, many people thrive while living with cancer and other chronic illnesses through her blog and Facebook page. She had gained a bunch of experience in healthcare marketing communications before cancer entered her life.

I hope this blog entry helps you more precisely define what you do. I suspect that there are a bunch of us former journalists now working in PR, marketing and communications who sometimes fumble with describing their focus. It’s a continually evolving area, with the blurring of lines between PR, marketing, advertising and digital — and, dare to say, journalism. Technology has given us the power to “go direct” with key audiences and influencers as never before. Networking is on steroids.

Footnote: Just realized that this post has a bunch of I’s, when this as actually been a We endeavor. Brand Journalism is a team effort that involves supportive leadership, collaborative teammates, outside resources. It definitely is not a go-alone proposition. We’re all in this together.