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:
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!
Convergence of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Word of Mouth (WOM), Content Marketing, Social Media = Opportunity
After hearing Jason Falls‘ opening keynote talk at the SIMEngage (Social + Internet Marketing) conference May 15 at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati, I remarked to a colleague that I had already gotten my money’s worth.
Falls, a true social media marketing pioneer, spoke about the convergence of PR, Content Marketing and Social Media, with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Word of Mouth (WOM) in the middle — and the tremendous opportunity this presents for organizations to achieve their strategic goals.
He started with a quick explanation of SEO, and how Google crawls pages searching for keywords. The most relevant content comes up first, based on 200-some factors. Moving up in search rankings is our role, helping boost rankings in search engines. An old goal with SEO was getting more inbound links to your website, using tactics such as online press releases with links. This still helps, but two years ago Google changed the ranking system.
SEO has become an earned media approach. You need to provide content that people care about. Become a thought leader. Create great, unique content that resonates with your audience. Share content in social media. Promote it.
Falls pointed out that social media ranks high in searches. Social profiles appear on front page of Google and Bing results. Social media directly impacts how websites rank, according to Google. Google+ might be relevant only for that reason.
You have about seven seconds to win a customer. You must figure out your moments of truth. What are your audience members asking when they are getting ready to buy? When are they making decisions? What are they asking? When can you provide relevant content and engage them?
This is important because Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing is 62% more effective than an ad! And media coverage, paid, etc. boost SEO and WOM. Gets people talking about you online and offline.
“Search cannot exist in a vacuum” Falls said. “PR, search and social must be integrated for you to succeed.”
What does it take to develop earned content that will drive your SEO? Creative content. A great user experience. Relationships and storytelling. A dash of technical geekery.
“Content is the currency for building social relationships that boost earned media,” Falls said, adding these nuggets:
- What is great content — Original (from you), Simple, Valuable and Useful, Entertains, Emotional (laugh, cry). Above all the content must be relevant to your audience.
- Key considerations — Who is the audience you need to reach? Why will they care about you? What are you doing to earn their interest? What incentive do they have to share?
- Finding topics — Ask your sales team, Mine the buying cycle, Q/A sites like QuoraYahooAnswers, mine social media, follow industry and peers.
- Next: Answer questions with blog post, video… American Express Business Forum is a good example. Others: H&R Block and the American Moustache Institute to lobby Congress for $250 tax credit. The Stache Act. Million Moustache March, etc. Make your profile. Point: Got H&R block in conversation for men 24-30, and it worked.
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.
It’s an exciting time for those of us in public relations, communications, marketing, digital strategy and related disciplines. It also can seem confusing, overwhelming, contradictory, counter-intuitive… as we embrace the challenges and opportunities of this time of rapid change.
Thank goodness, we don’t have to navigate these exhilarating — and sometimes turbulent — times alone. This era of social media allows us to build extensive networks and nurture mutually beneficial relationships as never before. We’re all in this together as we move to make this world a better place and enjoy the journey (at least that’s my goal during this short time on the planet).
This week, for example, I had the great fortune of attending Northern Kentucky University’s 2nd Annual Social Media Summit. The theme was “Maximizing the Client/Agency Relationship in the Social Media World.” An expert panel reinforced a lot of what we know, I thought. Stuff like social media allowing consumers to connect more directly with brands, the need for organizations to collaborate with outside partners to develop and implement social strategies, the need to integrate social with digital and offline, the imperative of breaking through the noise, etc. But, even more important to me, was the opportunity to speak with people I respect and like before the panel discussion — and to meet new folks interested in this subject area.
Two days later, I found myself in the middle of a totally unexpected experience at the monthly Cincinnati PRSA luncheon. Roddy Chong, a renowned violinist who has toured with Celine Dione, Shania Twain, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and others, gave a motivational talk interspersed with amazing violin playing. He simply blew away the 50-75 or so in attendance in the green room at the Aronoff Center.
Please take a look at the MikeBoehmer57 Twitter stream for my tweets from the summit and PRSA meeting. You’ll read some nuggets that hopefully will help as you work through fears en route to amazing, fulfilling work.
Here are several of Roddy’s points that particularly resonated with me:
- When you don’t face your fears, your dignity grows smaller.
- Find influences that point you above average.
- Be clear and specific.
These are exciting times, for sure. Scary too.
I’m glad we get to experience them together!
I’m a big believer in gaining first-hand experience with the various social networks. How can you claim to be an expert in something you hardly ever use? But it’s a daunting task, at times, to prioritize and manage time with so many powerful networks at your disposal. Here’s my latest priority list, which will probably be much different in a few months.
(1) Facebook. I’ve made so many connections with family, friends, business contacts… on this powerhouse that it definitely gets the most of my social media allotment. And, more and more, I find myself participating in discussions in groups and interacting with my favorite brands there, too.
(2) Twitter. This was my gateway into social media in a big way — clear back in 2008. It continues to be a great place for connecting with passionate, knowledgeable pros in areas of interest to me such as social media, public relations, marketing, healthcare, cancer survivorship… as well as entertainment (rock bands, sports teams). I have read hundreds (thousands?) of great blog posts and news accounts shared via my Twitter connections. I pass on info that I hope is of interest to others literally every day.
(3) LinkedIn. My use of this social network comes and goes, but it remains the meat and potatoes of my online menu. Right when I am tempted to push this down the priority list, they improve it.
(4) Google+. I actually dreaded this when it joined the scene a year ago — due to time constraints. But I keep getting lured back by features such as Hangouts and photo sharing, as well as the integration with my Gmail and YouTube accounts. I love Android, and Google has changed my life, so this will continue to get some of my precious time.
(5) Instagram. Just started getting involved with this network a few months ago, but I love sharing photos with others. It’s been a tremendous creative outlet. And I appreciate the way it integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare…
(6) Foursquare. Right when I was getting sick of feeling almost an obligation to check in at certain locations, they enhanced it. I find myself checking it more and more often these days.
(7) Pinterest. At first, I was really excited about this. Especially liked the many infographics there. But it’s gotten pushed way down the priority list by the above networks.
(8) YouTube. Get ready for this to skyrocket up the list. I’ve re-dedicated myself to the flipcam and a video blog, so this will probably squeeze time away from other networks.
So that’s my list for now. I’m sure I forgot something else that takes a few minutes here and there. And I didn’t even mention my WordPress and Blogger blogs. I’d be interested in learning about your priorities. It’s exciting to hear how you prioritize your precious social media time.
Over the years, I have experienced the satisfactions — and stresses and frustrations — of driving change within several organizations. Among those efforts were re-establishing a proactive media relations program with the computer trade press, creating and implementing an extensive internal communication system, and developing and carrying out a strategic social media marketing plan.
A webinar this week by a hospital public relations executive about implementing an unsupported (at first) social media plan reminded me of some of the practices that have helped me lead change efforts. Here are some things I’ve found helpful:
* Have passion for your cause. Really believe in what you are doing. That’s probably been my No. 1 asset. I can see the possibilities and opportunities. My enthusiasm rubs off on early adopters and change agents.
* Connect with others who have driven (or are driving) similar changes. You can support each other and share ideas. It’s very helpful to have moral support — and to offer backing to someone as they push through negativity.
* Stay abreast of the latest statistics and data that support your cause — and share with key audiences. For example, I have been getting great data from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project about how Americans use the Internet for healthcare information and decision-making. I share relevant stats with others on a frequent basis.
* Study what your competitors and leaders in your industry are doing — and report to decision-makers. Give them a good idea of what’s out there. Tell them that you want to be ahead of your competitors and among the leaders in your industry — and that this is possible. If there is a will, there is a way.
* Once you begin to implement, track and share regular statistical reports spiced with real-life examples. This is essential. I have found that doing a monthly report with bar charts and stories of how changes have helped achieve a strategic business goal open many doors. It’s part of the strategic process — Research, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation.
* Give presentations about your program both within and outside of your organization. Incorporate stats, stories, video. You need to repeat a message seven times to just achieve awareness. This is a great way to move toward that standard.
* Listen to what supporters and naysayers are communicating. Build upon the support, and address the concerns. It’s great to have an answer in advance to every conceivable “what if.”
* Post quotes from industry leaders in your workspace. I know this sounds silly, but it has helped me reinforce key messages and generate positive discussions in the past. For example, I love this one from Lisa Baron: “Ignoring social media makes you mute, not invisible.” I put it in a Word document, printed out, and put on the wall in my office.
Those are just a few thoughts that come to mind during my weekly blogging time slot! Please feel free to share any more in the comments.
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