Public Relations – Online Marketing Blog – TopRank® http://www.toprankblog.com Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:12:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 How Employee Engagement Helps Drive the Success of Your Marketing Efforts http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/employee-sucess/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/12/employee-sucess/#comments Tue, 05 Dec 2017 11:30:47 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=23348 As our world becomes increasingly driven by digital technologies and the workforce experiences generational shifts, employee engagement is rising as a top focus area for many companies. After all, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace study, just 16% of the American workforce is “actively” engaged. Of course, when employees aren’t engaged, they’re [...]

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As our world becomes increasingly driven by digital technologies and the workforce experiences generational shifts, employee engagement is rising as a top focus area for many companies. After all, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace study, just 16% of the American workforce is “actively” engaged.

Of course, when employees aren’t engaged, they’re a flight risk. In fact, Gallup’s research also revealed that 51% of employees are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings. Furthermore, those employees who fall into the “actively disengaged” category, are almost twice as likely as engaged employees to seek new jobs. And when employees leave, that can have a big impact on your bottom line when it comes to recruiting and back-filling costs.

So, after reading all of that, you’re probably wondering: What does employee engagement have to do with marketing?

Well, marketer friends, the truth is that employee engagement has everything to do with marketing.

At the most basic level, without an army of engaged employees, your marketing efforts—whether it be recruiting top talent or fostering employee advocacy on social media—can’t reach their full potential. But on a deeper level, there are couple other important marketing benefits you could be missing out on:


Without an army of engaged employees, your #marketing efforts can’t reach their full potential. - @CaitlinMBurgess #EmployeeEngagement
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#1 – Engaged employees can be gold mines for marketing insights.

Regardless of department, every employee boasts first-hand insights into “who” your company is, what it cares about, what your customers are saying, the quality of your products or services, and what they see as the biggest value adds or opportunities.

As a result, your employees are absolute gold mines for getting insights that can help you refine and drive your marketing efforts. But in order to mine for those honest insights, employee engagement has to come front and center.

Why? Because employee engagement helps build rapport, strengthen communication and mobilize people to take a more active role. So, if employees aren’t engaged, they’ll be less likely to go the extra mile by sharing their insights with you.


Employees are absolute gold mines for getting insights that can help you refine & drive your #marketing efforts. @CaitlinMBurgess
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#2 – Engaged employees can help stretch your marketing dollars.

Marketers are often thought of the spenders within an organization, but engaged employees can help turn that notion on its head a bit. As mentioned in the section above, the insider insights that you can uncover are not only authentic and helpful, but they don’t cost you a thing—just the time and care in gathering them.

Of course, this means you can’t simply ask employees to weigh in from time to time. They need to feel like they’re valued from top to bottom within the organization, which means regular nurturing and engagement that trickles throughout the organization.


Don’t just ask employees to weigh in from time to time. Nurture them regularly. #EmployeeEngagement
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#3 – Employees can be your most powerful brand advocates.

Your employees are not only the people behind your brand, but also active consumers taking place in the marketplace, writing reviews, sharing recommendations verbally and via social media with friends and family, and researching their purchasing decisions. And they’re more than willing to share both positive and negative feedback about you online.

In fact, a couple years ago, a Weber Shandwick study found that 39% of employees had shared praise or positive comments about their employer online—and 16% had shared criticism or negative comments.

From my perspective, engaged employees are more likely to fall in the latter category. Why? Because when employees feel understood, valued and connected to something bigger than themselves, they feel pride—and pride is a reason to give praise. Furthermore, in today’s competitive talent landscape, current employees can be your best recruiters.

As a result, with a focus on employee engagement, you can unlock employee advocacy—and that’s the kind of marketing that money can’t buy.


With a focus on #EmployeeEngagement, you can unlock #EmployeeAdvocacy. @CaitlinMBurgess #marketing
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Help Kick-Start Your Company’s Employee Engagement Efforts

Employee engagement doesn’t happen overnight—nor does it happen with only the marketing department driving the initiative. Employee engagement has to be baked into your overall company culture to be successful.

So, where do you start? At the top.

Your company’s top leaders are the people who will give your employee engagement initiatives wings, helping the message and the commitment trickle down throughout the rest of the ranks.

A couple years back, TopRank Marketing leadership launched our Project Phoenix initiative as a way to actively listen and engage employees in constantly refining how we work together, as well as deliver more transparency as to business operations. As part of the initiative, employees are regularly surveyed on a variety of topics, which are then presented to the whole team for discussion and development of next steps.

From my perspective, this committment to engagement and learning has strengthened the resolve of the team members. More collaboration sessions are blossoming. More employees are feeling comfortable sharing their feelings and ideas with team members and leadership. And many people are setting personal and professional goals—with some putting down deeper roots within the organization and others spreading their wings and persuing new things.

All of this has also led to the recent launch of our Purpose Initiative, where we’re collectively digging deep to truly uncover how the company, every employee and our clients can be their best selves—so stay tuned for more on that in the future!

Also, if you’re in the mood for another example, check out Marketing Land column by Karen Steele of Marketo. In the post, she outlines the four steps her organization took to bake employee engagement into company culture, as well as the results they’ve seen.


#EmployeeEngagement has to be baked into your overall company culture to be successful. #marketing
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On the hunt for a new gig with an employer that cares about nurturing and engagement? TopRank Marketing is hiring! Check out our Careers page for open positions.


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Essential Search and Social Media Promotion Tips for News Content http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/04/social-media-promotion-tips/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2017/04/social-media-promotion-tips/#comments Mon, 17 Apr 2017 10:30:19 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=22169 Marketing and PR greatness must include equal parts intelligence, creativity and a focus on results. But there’s one more important ingredient necessary to help you stand out: enthusiasm. Serena Ehrlich from Business Wire has all of these characteristics and at the Digital Summit LA conference, she shared a cornucopia of practical advice about media relations [...]

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Serena Ehrlich BusinessWire

Marketing and PR greatness must include equal parts intelligence, creativity and a focus on results. But there’s one more important ingredient necessary to help you stand out: enthusiasm.

Serena Ehrlich from Business Wire has all of these characteristics and at the Digital Summit LA conference, she shared a cornucopia of practical advice about media relations and promotion of news content with zest and gusto.

Here are a few highlights.

Serena EhrlichIt’s common sense and supported by research that industry media is a source of news and trusted information for buyers of every kind. Consumers and journalists have changed right along with the technology used to discover, consume and engage with content.

Therefore, it’s essential that marketing and communications professionals empathize with their audience to understand their preferences and give them what they want.

Because newsrooms have shrunk and journalists are overwhelmed with bad pitches along with a news cycle that runs 24/7 it’s a challenge to stand out. But no fear,  you can really increase your chances of successful media pickups by following a few news release tips from Serena:

  • Include usable support data
  • Be interesting
  • Be relevant to target audience
  • Be catchy
  • Include quotes
  • Include multimedia

Of course, outbound media pitching isn’t the only way journalists can be exposed to your news content. Search engines and social networks can deliver thousands of additional readers that are actively looking for information that your brand has to give.

That means making sure news releases and newsroom content is optimized for the right keywords and promoted through social media. Serena suggested using Google Trends to find keywords to add to your release headlines to increase opens, which is great. You can also use tools like keywordtool.io, Moz Keyword Explorer or if you have a Google AdWords account, their Keyword Planner. (we’ve covered press release optimization extensively here in the past in case you want to venture that way)

Serena brought up that since journalists are increasingly judged on the traffic or page view performance of the articles they write, be sure to let them know when they cover your story, that you will share what they write across your social networks. If they know you’ll help promote the article, they might be more inclined to use you for the story and again in the future.

When it comes to social media promotion, Serena stressed the importance of earning trust. How do you do that? Here are her tips:

Share smart content:
– News releases and coverage
– New ideas
– Stats and data
– Ask provocative questions
Share happy content:
– Case studies
– User generated content shares
– CSR content
– Employee life
Share negative-fix content:
– How can you solve this pain point?
– Share consequences

Social networks are where people spend their time, period. And to engage with customers, brands need to be where the customers are. To help you promote your news content where people are actually spending time, Serena shared these tips for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and YouTube:

LinkedIn Tips: Professional Competition
– Link with coworkers: Trigger LinkedIn’s algorithm by sharing updates simultaneously
– Include contact information in your release: LinkedIn promotes people mentioned in news releases
– Use LinkedIn blog opportunities to reach new audiences and drive traffic via company blog teaser
– Write content that includes the 6 Ws, you, lists, hacks, psychology, careers, talent and multimedia

Twitter Tips: Smart, Clever, First
– Format: 118-character count – include a headline, link, comments
– News content types to post on Twitter: Stats, releases, coverage
– Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags – up to 3
– Include up to 4 images, GIF or video
– Join hashtag chats
– Add Influencers to Twitter lists
– Create RT DMs groups – people you can reach out to for mutual sharing of content

Facebook Tips: Personal, Smart, Visual
– Increase Your Reach
– Facebook parses content by type
– Facebook matches word use in updates
– Use free audience targeting
– Upload video in early afternoon

Use Facebook Live for reach:
– 10 minutes in length
– Include surprise material
– Comment pinning pending

Be sure to try Facebook Notes for the SEO value

Reddit Tips: Passionate, Smart, Informed
– Reddit has a large audience with 45,000 targeted communities
– Share links to drive traffic, but be sure to participate with the Reddit community first to build relationships (don’t just dump your links)
– Only share relevant information

Instagram Tips: Fame, Recognition
– Instagram is a visual social network, so be sure to use high quality or interesting imagery
– Showcase behind the scenes, physical products, physical locations
– Highlight employee engagement

On Instagram, be sure to:
– Sign up for a business page
– Drive traffic via URL in profile or Stories
– Be descriptive
– Use hashtags (up to 30)
– Like other people’s images to increase interactivity

Pinterest Tips: Showing off + Smart
– Pinterest is the most aspirational network
– It is very focused on B2C, but there are opportunities for B2B
– Extremely high CTR

On Pinterest, be sure to:
– Fuel the smart board
– Be hyper-targeted
– Be descriptive
– Use hashtags

Snapchat Tips: Unvarnished Truth
– 71% of Snapchat users are 18-34 years old.
– Users have an average of 15 friends
– To maximize your impact on Snapchat, buy a geofilter!

On Snapchat, be sure to:
– Provide VIP/exclusive access to content
– Be highly relevant with real time discussion
– Include offers and coupons
– Consider takeovers

YouTube + BizWireTV Tips: Video News
– 33% of YouTube searches are for news
– YouTube TV is launching in 2017

On YouTube, be sure to:
– Create content for all sales funnel steps
– Determine what your audience watches in long form and shorten it
– Create a video of text content
-Try FB live to announce news
– Try www.gifyoutube.com
– Try Sponsorships with BizWireTV

There’s a lot to think about if you want to do well with your news content across so many social channels. Hopefully these tips are useful for your efforts at getting news content noticed by journalists through both outbound and inbound efforts.

You can connect with Serena on Twitter @Serena and on LinkedIn.

This is the first of two posts from the recent Digital Summit Los Angeles conference I attended. The second will feature Loren McDonald of IBM (Is Cognitive Technology the End of Marketing As We Know It?).

Loren MdDonald, Serena Ehrlich, Lee Odden

Loren MdDonald, Serena Ehrlich, Lee Odden


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Marketing and Public Relations Convergence: Preview to #PRSAIcon 2015 http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/10/marketing-pr-convergence-prsaicon15/ Wed, 28 Oct 2015 10:00:53 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=19406 Expectations of marketing outcomes from public relations activities are higher than ever. It’s no longer enough to earn media placements, distribute releases and manage a few brand social media profiles. Companies increasingly expect PR to perform with marketing and business impact. I can’t help but state it bluntly: PR practitioners and organizations that have not [...]

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PRSA International Conference 2015
Expectations of marketing outcomes from public relations activities are higher than ever. It’s no longer enough to earn media placements, distribute releases and manage a few brand social media profiles. Companies increasingly expect PR to perform with marketing and business impact.

I can’t help but state it bluntly:

PR practitioners and organizations that have not expanded skills to include marketing capabilities are at risk of becoming irrelevant.

The good news is that the leap from PR to Marketing convergence is not that far.  A great example is our agency, TopRank Marketing, originally founded as Misukanis & Rodgers Public Relations 14 years ago. Early on we made a very important transition from PR to Digital Marketing that has enabled us to bring the best of both worlds to our client work.

As a strong advocate of integrated marketing and PR, I often present at conferences alongside other PR/Marketing savvy peers like Shonali Burke, Deirdre Breakenridge and Gini Dietrich. The next event where you can find all three plus me is PRSA International.

Coming up November 8-10 in Atlanta, the 2015 PRSA International conference is hosting opportunities for professionals at any level of PR and Marketing integration to upgrade their skills and best practices. In fact, there’s an entire track dedicated to “Integration” featuring speakers from brands like Cisco, Time Inc., H&R Block and Coca-Cola as well as agencies like Golin, FleishmanHillard, Ketchum and WCG.

This year, you’ll find me participating in a number of presentations and panels on everything from working with influencers to becoming a content machine to building your personal brand.

Here is where and when you can find me representing TopRank Marketing at PRSA International in Atlanta:

Presentation (PRSSA)
Sunday, November 8 – 3:15 – 4:15 p.m.
Crowdsourcing Content With Industry Influencers and Your Community
This presentation for PR students will provide an overview of influencer content strategy, best practices and tools to scale the kind of content buyers and communities really want – because they had a hand in creating it.

Key Learnings:
– What kinds of PR content work best for co-creation
– How to identify, qualify and recruit influencer contributors
– Top tools for influencer marketing management and content promotion
– Measuring and optimizing crowdsourced content performance
More Information

Professional Development Workshop (Sponsored by Marketwired)
Monday, November 9 – 10:15–11:15 a.m.
Room: M 103-105
You CAN Be a Content Machine: Tips, Tools and Tech to Help You Become a Multimedia-Driven Content Engine
Panelists:

  • Michael Brito (@Britopian), Head of Social Strategy for WCG, a @W2OGroup Company; author and speaker
  • Rebekah Iliff (@rebekahiliff), Chief Strategy Officer @AirPR; co-founder of @talkTECHcomm, writer and entrepreneur
  • Lee Odden (@leeodden), CEO @TopRank Online Marketing; author, speaker & consultant for B2B content marketing, social media, PR & search
  • Sanjay Kulkarni, VP Product & Marketing, Marketwired, PRSA session facilitator (@marketwired)

My specific focus for the panel will be: Content marketing and how it can empower PR
More information

Experts Express Presentation
Monday, November 9th – 3:45 – 4:45 p.m.
3 Ways to Grow Your Personal Brand Online
An online presence and credibility are not only important for PR clients. Now, more than ever, communications professionals need to differentiate themselves. This presentation will share quick tips on tactics and tools to help you stand out where it matters most through content creation, curation, and community participation.
More Information

Main PRSA Conference Presentation
Monday, November 9 – 5–6 p.m.
Room: International 8
Participation Marketing: Tools and Tactics for Crowdsourcing Content With Industry Influencers and Your Community
Demand for content continues to rise as marketing and communications professionals are challenged to satisfy the information needs of hungry consumers. With ubiquitous connectivity and devices enabling passionate experts to create influence and community, brands can tap into the streams of those empowered to publish to create mutual value.

Key Learnings:
– Content types to use for co-creation
– Identify, qualify and recruit influencer contributors
– Tools for influencer marketing management and content promotion
– Guidelines for measuring and optimizing crowdsourced content
More Information

As you can see, with 4 presentations, I will be pretty busy at this year’s PRSA International conference. While I’ve been presenting at PRSA and PR industry events for many years, it has been refreshing to see interest in marketing topics growing every year.

If you work in the PR and communications field, I challenge you to set goals for your marketing education journey towards learning marketing best practices.

Marketers need the skills PR professionals have and vice versa. More importantly, these are skills that must be maintained and enhanced on an ongoing basis. There is no stasis for integrated marketing and PR skills.

Skills necessary to take advantage of integrated marketing and PR are starting to appear more often within job listings and resumes. Some of the key skills we look and that many PR professionals are looking to build include:

  • Develop Communications Strategy & Marketing Messaging
  • Communications and Content Planning
  • Content & Media Creation
  • Publish, Pitch & Promote Media Content (Earned, Owned, Paid)
  • Engage: Recruit Influencers, Grow Social Networks, Lists & Subscribers
  • Monitor KPIs for Reach & Influence, Visibility and Inbound Traffic
  • Measure Outcomes for Media and for Marketing
  • Optimize Messaging, Content & the Pitching / Promotion Mix
  • Optimize Content & Distribution for Improved Marketing Outcomes (Conversions)

If you’ll be in Atlanta for PRSA International this November 8-10, I invite you to attend one or more of the presentations and panels listed above to tap into some of these skills.

OptimizeI’ll be sharing advice as well as a few copies of my book, Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing to a few lucky attendees in each presentation.

I hope to see you there!


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2015. | Marketing and Public Relations Convergence: Preview to #PRSAIcon 2015 | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Why Content Marketing is Imperative for the Future of Public Relations http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/07/content-marketing-pr-imperative/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/07/content-marketing-pr-imperative/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 11:40:15 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=18968 Whether you’re considering media relations, brand journalism or managing corporate communications, content has always played an essential part of effective Public Relations. However, PR pros that don’t accelerate their ability to develop content strategy, development and measurement quickly and effectively are being left behind as the future of digital PR evolves. This is a topic I’ve advocated for the past 3 [...]

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Content Marketing Public Relations

Whether you’re considering media relations, brand journalism or managing corporate communications, content has always played an essential part of effective Public Relations.

However, PR pros that don’t accelerate their ability to develop content strategy, development and measurement quickly and effectively are being left behind as the future of digital PR evolves. This is a topic I’ve advocated for the past 3 years, starting out as a warning and now a reality.

Major changes in the digital marketing and PR world have revealed how social technologies, devices and ubiquitous internet access have opened the doors for all-the-time, “everywhere” connectivity to the web.

That connectivity enables consumers and brands alike to:  Create, Consume, Publish, Interact and Transact anywhere, anytime. From tablets to smartphones to getting digital content via your car, the relationship between technology and people has had a major impact on how information is discovered, consumed and shared or acted upon.

These changes in behaviors and technology represent challenges, but especially opportunities for the public relations industry in several categories:

Who Are the Media? – It’s no secret that news media publishing models have experienced dramatic changes in the past 5 years with strong shifts to digital and new business models to meet consumer demand of real-time news and information on any device.

The ability for individuals to develop social networks and publish information to an audience that can match or exceed a traditional publication means that influencers are no longer limited to industry news publications and media. Connecting with and creating value with many niche influencers, whether they be journalists covering a specific topical beat to a passionate blogger with an engaged community, can be as impactful as a hit with a mainstream publication. Being useful with content further enhances niche influencer relations and provides more mutual value than relying on the “big media hits’ alone.

Content is the currency for building social relationships that can boost earned media.

Brands as Publishers – Companies are increasingly leveraging content marketing to boost owned media as well as the effectiveness securing earned media. Companies are hiring editors, corporate journalists and editorial staff to create a publishing environment not unlike many publications.

If you want to ensure your brand gets in the media, then become the media.

Emerging Technology and Consumer Behaviors – Consumers being connected to the web all the time from anywhere and the normalcy of sharing on the social web has allowed mainstream media to tap into their own audiences to capture and report news. Consumers are audiences but also publishers. Expectations have changed and many consumers expect not only to be informed but to participate with the news. Co-creation of content with consumers as well as industry influencers can lead to mutual satisfaction all around.

Ubiquitous connectivity has turned consumers into publishers and they expect participation.

So, what do these changes mean for public relations? Here are three key areas to consider:

1. Convergence: The roles, of PR, Marketing, Customer Service and other disciplines are increasingly integrated.

  • PR needs to cross train for skills, collaborate and integrate
  • PR can tap into other resources in an organization to reach mutual objectives
  • PR can show more value for its own efforts

With the prevalence of the social web and internet connected mobile devices, there are even more opportunities to leverage cross functional resources and skills to connect influencers and buyers alike with corporate content.

2. Become the Media: Brands are adopting publishing models in their efforts to establish better connections with customers, and to achieve a competitive advantage.

  • PR must consider it’s ability to leverage earned media as well paid, earned and shared media
  • PR is no longer a gate keeper to content, but a creator and participant in the content ecosystem
  • PR can establish credibility with other media when it it has it’s own well know media property

Media Relations can be a tough game. Journalists and increasingly, bloggers are bombarded with pitches and it’s difficult to stand out, let alone get in the door. When the end objective is exposure, awareness and influence, why rely soley on 3rd party media? Why not become the media?

Companies are investing significantly in the “brand as publisher” model with content hubs to create a web presence that satisfies consumer needs for information and allows the brand to info-tain, educate and persuade with content. Companies ranging from American Express to General Mills are so successful at this, they are able to monetize marketing editorial with outside advertisers and syndication.

3. Adapt & Optimize. Repeat. Technology and consumer behaviors are evolving quickly and the ability for businesses to attract, engage and persuade their public requires strong adaptability and a continuous effort towards optimizing PR effectiveness.

  • PR needs to continuously monitor consumer and technology trends
  • PR must develop a cycle of objective, audience, approach, tactics, measurement and refinement.
  • Continuous efforts to improve performance of how PR content is discovered, consumed and acted on will be essential

When a competitor launches a new product and gets major media coverage, a brand might decide to parody something in that message or provide a counter point and promote it through social channels as it gains momentum. Knowing people will look for more information than what’s covered in the initial story, content about the story can be optimized for search to make it the best answer and easiest for people to find.

If a business creates a substantial amount of content, there are many opportunities for repurposing to specific verticals or across horizontal publishing channels like email, social networks, blogs and byline articles.  If an organization doesn’t create a lot of content, then repurposing may serve the purpose of extending the value of resources and gain additional reach without a corresponding increase in resources.

I challenge public relations professionals to look beyond the simplicity of earned media and take a bigger picture look at how these changes and the integration of content marketing with PR can empower the role of PR to have greater and more significant impact on bottom line business goals.

Think about how content marketing can create more owned assets with which to attract, engage and inspire earned and shared media. Those same assets can work with paid media for customer acquisition objectives as well.

The only question is, what are you doing as a PR executive to adjust your strategy, skills and resources to make the move forward with content marketing?

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Photo: Shutterstock


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The Evolution of Public Relations Through Content Marketing http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/06/revolution-pr-content/ Wed, 03 Jun 2015 13:31:41 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=18691 Brands are answering the call to create more value for customers and their community by publishing their own news and editorial content.  As companies adopt a publisher model of content and media creation, many are surpassing the reach and influence of traditional publications in their industry. Some great examples of popular content hubs include Intel IQ, [...]

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Content Marketing PR

Brands are answering the call to create more value for customers and their community by publishing their own news and editorial content.  As companies adopt a publisher model of content and media creation, many are surpassing the reach and influence of traditional publications in their industry.

Some great examples of popular content hubs include Intel IQ, Target’s Bulls Eye View, Adobe’s CMO.com and Dell’s Power More (client).

Dell Power More

Dell’s Power More Content Hub

I think everyone watching these trends can agree that the PR industry has been in a state of flux over the past few years. Over 17,000 newsroom jobs have been lost since 2007 and if you’re a journalist, that can be a scary statistic. In fact, if you’re in media relations, it can be concerning too, because with fewer journalists, the competition for stories is even higher.

Declining readership of traditional media, exploding use of social and mobile technologies, shortened news cycles and an explosion in brand publishing make today’s media environment very different for the Public Relations and Communications industry.

If you want to be in the media, become the media. (tweet this)

Here’s the good news: Brands are evolving as publishers, hiring journalists to better tell brand stories and investing in content marketing.  10 years ago, maybe 25% of our our consulting engagements involved content creation. Today, nearly 100% of our client marketing programs involve creating content to achieve marketing objectives.

Optimize for Customers AND Journalists

In the same way marketers segment customer data to create profiles that reflect key behavioral data about information discovery, consumption and what motivates action, so too can PR professionals approach content creation and optimization for journalists, analysts and reporters doing research. Time on social media and search engines means being where the target audience is looking, whether it’s buyers looking for solutions or a journalist looking for statistics or a story source.

How can you be where journalists are looking? By creating and optimizing content that’s useful on “in demand” and relevant topics.

Where does content marketing fit in the public relations and communications mix? I think defining content marketing in the context of PR answers that question well:

Content Marketing is the planning, creation, and amplification of brand and customer focused narratives that drive measurable business outcomes. (tweet this)

When you look at the idea of storytelling targeted to a specific audience intended to affect certain intended outcomes, it sounds a like influencing publics to me. When you combine that ability to incorporate key messaging into content stories with marketing level accountability – it’s a clear competitive advantage over PR or standard content marketing by itself.

Of course there’s a diverse array of skills involved with content marketing that go way beyond the purview of most PR professionals. But the messaging, ability to influence and target groups is spot on.

Content is the currency for building social relationships that can boost earned media. (tweet this)

Here’s the thing about content marketing and PR: Both Marketing and Public Relations are in the content business. At TopRank Online Marketing (previously Misukanis & Odden Public Relations) we’ve lived this duality for nearly 15 years. Some of the content types you’ll find PR pros creating include:

  • Newsroom
  • Blog Posts
  • Press Releases
  • Case Studies
  • Social Content
  • Newsletters
  • Contributed Articles
  • White Papers
  • Events
  • Video, Image, Audio

The value PR brings to the content marketing mix is more than content creation.  By providing news content that traditional sources are not, brands are creating new connections with their communities and customers. While much of content marketing falls under the realm of corporate marketing, the expertise in messaging, content creation and media relations that many Public Relations professionals bring to the table can offer competitive advantages.

Storytelling

“Facts tell, stories sell”. Content Marketing is the ability to tell brand stories that consumers and the media will care about. Who better to find and tell those stories than PR and Communications pros?

It is often said that people make decisions based on emotion but justify them with logic. Therein lies the intersection of PR and content marketing. Stories can connect with customers on an emotional level and the architected narrative of content marketing can provide a vehicle for both facts and stories that matter to your customers.

Editorial Based Marketing

PR professionals understand how news organizations work. Businesses are investing in content from planning to production to editorial. Corporate Journalism is on the rise and PR professionals are perfectly capable of fulfilling those functions or supporting them to create compelling brand content. Content designed to engage also inspires action – whether it’s a social share, a purchase, a referral or an inquiry to do a story.

Influencer Marketing

Working with industry and media influencers has been the stock and trade of media relations professionals for years. Numerous tools from Traackr to GroupHigh to The Shelf can support the need to identify influencers and content creators based on their ability to affect action. PR professionals are well positioned to identify and engage influencers for a variety of content marketing based outcomes ranging from guest blog posts to co-creation of content with industry thought leaders.

Now more than ever, creating content that influences growth in market awareness and new business requires an integrated approach. While this has been a challenge for many PR professionals as marketing and PR functions converge, the good news is that through a model of Attract, Engage and Convert, organizations can better plan, implement and optimize the performance of their content based PR programs.

Public Relations pros that are skilled in messaging, content planning, social media and promotion have an excellent base to become better content marketers than many of the opportunists now calling themselves “content marketing experts”.  The main area of opportunity is in measurement, because marketers are accountable to performance and business outcomes in ways that most people in the PR world aren’t.

Learn More About PR and Content Marketing

I’m going to be presenting on this topic of public relations and content marketing at several events this year. Most notably, at PRORP’s Congreso Internacional de Relaciones Públicas in Mexico City next week on June 8th. PRORP is the largest association of public relations professionals in Mexico.

I will also be presenting on integrating PR and content marketing at the PRSA International Conference later this year November 8th in Atlanta.

Photo: Shutterstock


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How Locally Laid Got Paid by Turning Customer Feedback into Brand Storytelling http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/01/customer-feedback-storytelling/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/01/customer-feedback-storytelling/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:55:09 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=17920 Locally-Laid-Brand-Storytelling

Locally-Laid-Brand-Storytelling

Here in Minnesota, a small egg company is getting big press after ruffling the feathers of a concerned shopper.

When Locally Laid Eggs received a letter from a grocery store shopper, saying that the company’s name is “offensive” and its advertising “vulgar,” the company took to its own blog to offer up a rebuttal. In doing so, they enlightened readers about locally-sourced food and responsible farming and revealed some key marketing lessons in the process.

Most companies would have tossed the letter and missed out on the opportunity to use this kind of storytelling to pick up on the interest that Locally Laid had generated. But Locally Laid understood the importance of story before marketing. From the tiny Wrenschall, Minnesota town (population 399) the small company had the foresight to not only address — respectfully — the letter writer’s concerns, but to point out the reason why their product stands out from competitor options on the shelves.

Lucie Amundsen, the self-proclaimed "marketing chick" at Locally Laid, knows what she is doing. Here is an excerpt from her letter to the unidentified shopper.

"When our perfect double entendre breaks through the media clutter in which we’re all steeped, we leverage it. With that second look from a consumer, we educate about animal welfare, eating local, Real Food and the economics of our broken food system.

We all vote with our food dollars every day and we respect your decision if our playful moniker keeps you from buying our eggs. It was just important to me that you understood everything that was going on behind that name.

Now I gotta ask, would you have learned all this if we were named Amundsen Farms?"

Locally laid received coverage in Twin Cities news publications as well as an invite to tell their story on Minnesota Public Radio. As Twitter and Facebook responses came in from around the country, the company had to announce that their site was running slow because of all the traffic the blog post had received. It's pretty difficult to buy that kind of reach and sentiment.locallylaidlogo

"Our Facebook page "likes" went up by a full third, adding on an 2,100 additional fans as of (Monday)," Lucie said. "Our reach in that medium was just under half a million last week. We also sold some 300 of our American-made T-shirts, which has been great for our cash flow ... And while I haven't done egg re-ordering with stores yet this week, I'm been getting lots of photos of empty shelves and people asking when cartons will be restocked. I'm calling this retaliatory consumerism, (with a wink)."

Lucie didn't anticipate, or plan for the response her blog post had received.

"It's a pretty wonky piece and I thought that about 12 of my farm-y or policy-minded friends would enjoy it," she said. "So I'm surprised and pleased that this rather think-y example of polite discourse in a derisive world would get this much attention."

Many companies would have simply ignored the letter or reacted from a customer service perspective and not use it for a marketing opportunity. To that end, companies would do well to learn from the Locally Laid approach. Here are four content marketing lessons businesses can takeaway from Locally Laid:

1. Seize the opportunity

Lucie Amundsen could have easily just chuckled and tossed the angry letter into the recycling. Chances are, most companies would have done just that. By using the letter as a trigger to tell her brand's story, Lucie was able to reach an audience through shares that she may not have connected with in the past.

Takeaway: These opportunities are likely to come in the form of social even more so than a letter to your office. If your company isn't monitoring social media chatter about your company's name and industry, you may not know. Find a way to filter these opportunities out and take advantage of them.

2. Lift the whole industry

Lucie's blog post responds to the reader's objections, but more importantly it tells the story of why Locally Laid does things the way they do. The post points out specific data related to the food industry and champions the concept of Middle Agriculture and it's effect on rural economies. Lucie is not only telling the Locally Laid story, she's telling the story of all mid-sized farms.

Takeaway: What your business stands for is bigger than your business alone. Lucie knows that and is willing to promote other mid-sized ag businesses.  In doing so, she is spreading good will. What is it that your company stands for, and how does that tie into the bigger picture of the industry?

3. Good content gets shared

Sure, the name of the company is a little funny and that gets people's attention. Sure, the fact that the letter writer might be a little "out there" received some comments and shares. But those aren't the only reasons this story spread. It moved because the blog post is very well-written. Lucie covers major social and economic issues in the post and does so in a succinct, easy-to-follow post. Including images and a doughnut chart further assist in the storytelling.

Takeaway: Quality speaks volumes. If you're not proud of the content you're producing, then take another look and make it so. It is tempting to respond with speed, but responding in a timely manner with quality content is what is going to resonate.

4. It's OK to promote

When all is said and done, there are a couple of not-so subtle sales opportunities included in the blog post. Lucie says that she would offer to send the letter writer a "Local Chicks are Better!" T-shirt, but he probably wouldn't want one. Of course she takes that opportunity to link to a page on the Locally Laid site where similar shirts can be purchased. The blog post also mentions an upcoming book and reminds readers to follow along with news from the farm on Facebook and Twitter.

Takeaway: Always give people something to do next. If you're effective at persuading people and communicating your ideas and you've engageged with them, they'll want to do something else -- is it a social share, a transaction opportunity or more content to consumer. Give them the opportunity for something to do next. It comes across as promotion, but it's a promotion as a service to your are likely looking for. Make it easy for them to make the next step.

Jason and Lucie Amundsen at Locally Laid are no strangers to the spotlight. In 2013, the company was a finalist to win an ad that would run during the Super Bowl.

It is clear that the Amundsen's know their way around the digital media landscape. They understand the power of a company blog and have used it to leverage their business. It will be fun to see what kind of legs their story gets as media outlets continue to pick it up.

Top image: Shutterstock.

 

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Locally-Laid-Brand-Storytelling

Locally-Laid-Brand-Storytelling Here in Minnesota, a small egg company is getting big press after ruffling the feathers of a concerned shopper. When Locally Laid Eggs received a letter from a grocery store shopper, saying that the company’s name is “offensive” and its advertising “vulgar,” the company took to its own blog to offer up a rebuttal. In doing so, they enlightened readers about locally-sourced food and responsible farming and revealed some key marketing lessons in the process. Most companies would have tossed the letter and missed out on the opportunity to use this kind of storytelling to pick up on the interest that Locally Laid had generated. But Locally Laid understood the importance of story before marketing. From the tiny Wrenschall, Minnesota town (population 399) the small company had the foresight to not only address — respectfully — the letter writer’s concerns, but to point out the reason why their product stands out from competitor options on the shelves. Lucie Amundsen, the self-proclaimed "marketing chick" at Locally Laid, knows what she is doing. Here is an excerpt from her letter to the unidentified shopper.
"When our perfect double entendre breaks through the media clutter in which we’re all steeped, we leverage it. With that second look from a consumer, we educate about animal welfare, eating local, Real Food and the economics of our broken food system. We all vote with our food dollars every day and we respect your decision if our playful moniker keeps you from buying our eggs. It was just important to me that you understood everything that was going on behind that name. Now I gotta ask, would you have learned all this if we were named Amundsen Farms?"
Locally laid received coverage in Twin Cities news publications as well as an invite to tell their story on Minnesota Public Radio. As Twitter and Facebook responses came in from around the country, the company had to announce that their site was running slow because of all the traffic the blog post had received. It's pretty difficult to buy that kind of reach and sentiment.locallylaidlogo "Our Facebook page "likes" went up by a full third, adding on an 2,100 additional fans as of (Monday)," Lucie said. "Our reach in that medium was just under half a million last week. We also sold some 300 of our American-made T-shirts, which has been great for our cash flow ... And while I haven't done egg re-ordering with stores yet this week, I'm been getting lots of photos of empty shelves and people asking when cartons will be restocked. I'm calling this retaliatory consumerism, (with a wink)." Lucie didn't anticipate, or plan for the response her blog post had received. "It's a pretty wonky piece and I thought that about 12 of my farm-y or policy-minded friends would enjoy it," she said. "So I'm surprised and pleased that this rather think-y example of polite discourse in a derisive world would get this much attention." Many companies would have simply ignored the letter or reacted from a customer service perspective and not use it for a marketing opportunity. To that end, companies would do well to learn from the Locally Laid approach. Here are four content marketing lessons businesses can takeaway from Locally Laid: 1. Seize the opportunity Lucie Amundsen could have easily just chuckled and tossed the angry letter into the recycling. Chances are, most companies would have done just that. By using the letter as a trigger to tell her brand's story, Lucie was able to reach an audience through shares that she may not have connected with in the past. Takeaway: These opportunities are likely to come in the form of social even more so than a letter to your office. If your company isn't monitoring social media chatter about your company's name and industry, you may not know. Find a way to filter these opportunities out and take advantage of them. 2. Lift the whole industry Lucie's blog post responds to the reader's objections, but more importantly it tells the story of why Locally Laid does things the way they do. The post points out specific data related to the food industry and champions the concept of Middle Agriculture and it's effect on rural economies. Lucie is not only telling the Locally Laid story, she's telling the story of all mid-sized farms. Takeaway: What your business stands for is bigger than your business alone. Lucie knows that and is willing to promote other mid-sized ag businesses.  In doing so, she is spreading good will. What is it that your company stands for, and how does that tie into the bigger picture of the industry? 3. Good content gets shared Sure, the name of the company is a little funny and that gets people's attention. Sure, the fact that the letter writer might be a little "out there" received some comments and shares. But those aren't the only reasons this story spread. It moved because the blog post is very well-written. Lucie covers major social and economic issues in the post and does so in a succinct, easy-to-follow post. Including images and a doughnut chart further assist in the storytelling. Takeaway: Quality speaks volumes. If you're not proud of the content you're producing, then take another look and make it so. It is tempting to respond with speed, but responding in a timely manner with quality content is what is going to resonate. 4. It's OK to promote When all is said and done, there are a couple of not-so subtle sales opportunities included in the blog post. Lucie says that she would offer to send the letter writer a "Local Chicks are Better!" T-shirt, but he probably wouldn't want one. Of course she takes that opportunity to link to a page on the Locally Laid site where similar shirts can be purchased. The blog post also mentions an upcoming book and reminds readers to follow along with news from the farm on Facebook and Twitter. Takeaway: Always give people something to do next. If you're effective at persuading people and communicating your ideas and you've engageged with them, they'll want to do something else -- is it a social share, a transaction opportunity or more content to consumer. Give them the opportunity for something to do next. It comes across as promotion, but it's a promotion as a service to your are likely looking for. Make it easy for them to make the next step. Jason and Lucie Amundsen at Locally Laid are no strangers to the spotlight. In 2013, the company was a finalist to win an ad that would run during the Super Bowl. It is clear that the Amundsen's know their way around the digital media landscape. They understand the power of a company blog and have used it to leverage their business. It will be fun to see what kind of legs their story gets as media outlets continue to pick it up. Top image: Shutterstock.  

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3 Advantages Public Relations Brings to Digital Marketing http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/05/digital-pr-advantages-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/05/digital-pr-advantages-marketing/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 15:18:16 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16824 Numerous journalists are jumping the newsroom ship to “brand storytelling” as content marketers and an increasing number of public relations firms are evolving as integrated marketing communications agencies. As more companies adopt content marketing and integrate their marketing activities across owned, earned, shared and paid media, there’s an opportunity for marketers to tap into the expertise of [...]

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digital PR marketing

Numerous journalists are jumping the newsroom ship to “brand storytelling” as content marketers and an increasing number of public relations firms are evolving as integrated marketing communications agencies.

As more companies adopt content marketing and integrate their marketing activities across owned, earned, shared and paid media, there’s an opportunity for marketers to tap into the expertise of the PR world.  PR is a grossly underutilized strategy for marketers and presents a unique means to evolve from Stasis to Storytelling on the Content Marketing Continuum.

According to a content marketing study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, the top challenges for content marketers include: Not producing enough content, not creating content that engages, not producing a variety of content, lack of integration across marketing channels.

The good news is, substantial progress can be made towards solving these challenges through integration of PR and marketing. Here are 3 ways PR expertise can be leveraged for content and digital marketing success:

Storytelling

There’s an old expression that has held true for me over the past 15 years: “Facts tell, stories sell”. Content Marketing is the ability to tell brand stories that consumers and the media will care about. Who better to find and tell those stories than PR and Communications pros?

It is often said that people make decisions based on emotion but justify them with logic. Therein lies the intersection of PR and content marketing. Stories can connect with customers on an emotional level and the architected narrative of content marketing can provide a vehicle for both facts and stories that matter to your customers.

Editorial Based Marketing

Before “content marketing” became the catchphrase, I used to call what our Marketing/PR agency did “editorial based marketing”. PR professionals understand how news organizations work. They also understand the value of extending a story across platforms and distribution across publications. Businesses are investing in content from planning to production to editorial. Corporate Journalism is on the rise and PR professionals are perfectly capable of fulfilling those functions or supporting them to create compelling brand content. Content designed to engage also inspires action – whether it’s a social share, a purchase, a referral or an inquiry to do a story.

Influencer Marketing

Working with industry and media influencers has been the stock and trade of media relations professionals for years. Numerous tools from Traackr to BuzzSumo can support the need to identify influencers based on their ability to affect action – not just high follower counts. PR professionals are well positioned to identify and engage influencers for a variety of content marketing based outcomes ranging from guest blog posts to co-creation of content with industry thought leaders. What better way to scale meaningful content with social amplification built-in, than through influencer marketing?

Now more than ever, creating content that influences growth in market awareness and new business requires an integrated approach. While this has been a challenge for many PR professionals as marketing and PR functions converge, the good news is that through a model of Attract, Engage and Convert, organizations can better plan, implement and optimize the performance of their content based PR programs.

For more of a deep dive into this topic, check out the presentation below. You can also hear me present this live on Wed May 13th online through the PRSA Webinar: The Future of Digital PR is Integrated.

 

How are you using Public Relations expertise for better digital marketing?


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Online Reputation Book Review: Repped by Andy Beal http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/03/online-reputation-book-review-repped/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/03/online-reputation-book-review-repped/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 10:45:49 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16563 Many years ago when the role of search in brand reputation was really coming into it’s own, Public Relations and SEO were becoming unlikely partners as way to position positive messages about brands and individuals in search results. The combination of Search and PR was actually the genesis of TopRank Marketing. As Google became a [...]

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Online Reputation BookMany years ago when the role of search in brand reputation was really coming into it’s own, Public Relations and SEO were becoming unlikely partners as way to position positive messages about brands and individuals in search results. The combination of Search and PR was actually the genesis of TopRank Marketing.

As Google became a powerful reputation engine, the need for individuals and brands to monitor and manage their online reputations increased too.

Today, with billions of internet users empowered to post content anytime, anywhere, the articles and presentations we originally published on Online Reputation Management (ORM) are even more important today. And yet there are thousands of brands and even more individuals that are oblivious and in dire need of ORM.

The good news is that an excellent resource on the ORM topic has just been published by my longtime pal, author and owner of Trackur, Andy Beal. It’s called, Repped – 30 Days to A Better Online Reputation. Here’s a review of this highly useful guide that will serve both your online reputation and online marketing needs.

Andy Beal The premise is pretty straight forward: Whether you’re a brand, an individual or a “brandividual”, online reputation is an increasingly influential contributor to your success. Or failure.

What Andy sets out to do in Repped, is provide a 30 day plan to help any person or company build, manage, monitor and protect their online reputation.

For business people, think of how many times you’ve “Googled” someone you just met at a conference, vendors that you’re considering or a candidate that you’re about to interview. Have you ever found something that made you decline a meeting or feel differently (in a bad way) about that person? Do you think they were aware the information existed? Even more importantly, were they doing anything about monitoring and managing it?

What you find on the search and social web becomes a very important first or second impression.

As a business professional responsible for being in the public eye or managing business communications and marketing, being able to assess and affect how people see you online should be a top priority.

The good news is that Repped provides a handy framework for taking control over how you and your brand are known online.

Two great things about this book:

1. It’s designed to be used, get dog eared, post it noted and turned into action. At 176 pages, Repped is (thankfully) no War and Peace, so you can skim through. But it’s also structured as Day one, Day two etc so you can keep going back and get your daily advice with specific things to do with “Today’s Exercise” at the end of each chapter.

Some of the key questions answered in Repped include:

  • What is ORM (online reputation management)?
  • How do you set up social media monitoring?
  • How do you find influencers?
  • What kind of content should you create?
  • How do you build social networks and community?
  • How do you audit your brand or personal online reputation?
  • What do you do if someone is trash talking your brand?
  • How do you clean up negative search results about your brand?

2. What works for Online Reputation works for Online Marketing. The core of brand marketing is understanding how you want to be known. What is it that you should be the “best answer” for? Following the advice Andy gives in Repped will help you take control of your online reputation. At the same time, many of the tips and tactics offered in the book are just good marketing in this age of brandividuals, influencers and author authority.

Everything from social media monitoring to content planning to social media and community building are covered in Repped. It’s not a deep dive though, it’s a primer. It’s a smart introduction to 30 days of things you could be doing to optimize how your target audience, peers, and industry see you and your brand.

If you would like a good guide for the kinds of things your business needs to do in order to take control over executive and brand online reputation, this book is it.

You can get Repped at Amazon and here’s Andy’s site in case you want to know more about him and his social media monitoring company trackur. If you want to meet him person, make sure you attend the ClickZ Live conference in New York April 1-2.


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Does It Still Make Sense For Companies to Blog? http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/02/business-blogging-make-sense/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/02/business-blogging-make-sense/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 11:51:25 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16467 Over the past 10 years I’ve had more than enough opportunities to consider whether the investment in time and resources to blog has been worth it. Blogging for business is a question I think many companies ask themselves as they look at current trends towards time more spent on social networks and changing consumer consumption [...]

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Grand Central Station NYCOver the past 10 years I’ve had more than enough opportunities to consider whether the investment in time and resources to blog has been worth it.

Blogging for business is a question I think many companies ask themselves as they look at current trends towards time more spent on social networks and changing consumer consumption trends, especially with mobile.

This question came to light recently via Stephen Waddington, Digital and Social Media Director at  Ketchum Europe who pinged me for an opinion on the future of global blogging for a blog post he was researching. And that got me thinking:

Does it still make sense for companies to blog?

One way to answer that question is to take a look at how many blogs there are and whether the number is increasing:

When I started blogging in late 2003, there were about 1.5 million blogs (Technorati).

It’s actually hard to say how many blogs there are currently, but WordPress.com alone hosts 75.3 million blogs in over 120 different languages world-wide with 100,000 new blogs being created every day. WordPress.com blogs publish 40.5 million posts and attract 50 million comments per month. Over 400 million people view 14.4 billion pages per month.

If you look at Tumblr as a blog platform, there are over 170 million blogs and nearly 76 billion posts published.

This exercise could be continued with other blog hosting platforms like Google’s Blogger and others to raise the number of blogs even higher. Of course, I’m not even counting the millions of blogs hosted on their own domains like this one and most of the business blogs that are online.

While many of the personal blogs are about everything from cats to fashion to recipes to long forgotten ramblings from years gone by, blogging is not simply a domain for self expression.

Business blogging is alive and well. 

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth annual study of corporate blogs in 2013 recently reported the largest year over year increase of Fortune 500 corporate blogs (34%) since they started tracking them in 2008.

From telecommunications to specialty food retailers, companies have found blogging to be an essential hub for their social media, content marketing, SEO and online public relations efforts.

In fact, blogging is even more ideal now that content and brand publishing has become the price of entry for even the most basic of digital marketing efforts.

What about content shock? Is the economy of content marketing too imbalanced for business blogging to be practical?  Mark Schaefer made some interesting arguments about issues around the scalability and sustainability of companies creating more and more quality content. If the only reason a company creates a blog is for content marketing, then I’d have to agree. But here’s the thing:

Marketing is not the only reason companies can get value from blogging. 

I started blogging to explore the platform and soon discovered an incredibly useful tool for communicating directly with prospects, the media, potential employees, current clients and our own staff.  Any reason a company has to communicate can be supported by a blogging platform.

Being committed to blogging as a means for bringing offline experience online and vice versa in combination with speaking at events, has paid off in numerous ways. For our digital marketing agency, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The proof is in the pudding.

We are a boutique agency and yet we are known all over the world because of our blog. We receive thousands of new visitors every day from search that have never heard of TopRank before. Imagine what we would have to pay in advertising to reach new audiences, day in and day out. Actually, many companies know exactly what that costs because they don’t blog or because they blog and don’t integrate it very well with social networks and community for amplification.

So far, we’ve spent very little, if any budget on advertising to market our company and have never had a sales person or employed a public relations firm. What we have invested, in is over 1 million words about topics our target audiences care about. The payoff is virtually no cost of sale and bringing multiple Fortune 500 companies on as clients and attracting media coverage from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune and The Economist.

The current and future benefits of blogging are literally too numerous to list here, (maybe Stephen Waddington will write an eBook about this) but suffice it to say, in all my years as a marketing and PR professional, business blogging is by far the highest yield investment I’ve ever made for: marketing, public relations, and recruiting.

What’s the Future of Blogging for Business?

With the importance of content in search, social media and PR, blogging continues to be a viable asset for businesses to produce conversational content outside of the transaction oriented online stores and corporate websites.

Rather than blogs being replaced by social networks, media and apps on mobile devices, successful companies will incorporate blogging into their digital marketing mix. Blog content can be consumed with any device and for companies that want a destination on the web to curate their own Vines, Instagram images, and other types of mobile-created content, blogs are a great fit.

Blogs that are supported by a solid, customer-focused strategy and that are integrated with social media efforts still have every opportunity to help a brand become and stay “the best answer” for topics that matter most to their customers. Of course competition continues to grow and customer preferences for information discovery, consumption and action will change. But that’s why companies keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry and their customers, continually optimizing the quality and performance of their communications.

As a hub for brand publishing for virtually any kind of content, I can think of no better fit than a business blog in 2014 and in the future.

What do you think? Does it still make sense for companies to blog?


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Content Marketing With Press Releases: Pros, Cons, Examples & Best Practices http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/11/press-releases-content-best-practices/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/11/press-releases-content-best-practices/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 11:02:35 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=16099 When Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, announced that links in press releases have no value for SEO, it created a lot of discussion and debate in the SEM community. But, if you look at his comments in their entirety, you’ll notice that he also said press release sites do have value for press [...]

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Press Release Best PracticesWhen Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, announced that links in press releases have no value for SEO, it created a lot of discussion and debate in the SEM community. But, if you look at his comments in their entirety, you’ll notice that he also said press release sites do have value for press and marketing reasons as Cheryl Conner, contributing writer at Forbes, so eloquently points out.

Consider,

  • 92% of journalists use search engines to research stories and 81% of journalists use search engines daily (MarketingSherpa)
  • Blog readership, RSS feed subscriptions and social media sites are visited in record numbers
  • Journalists using Google News surpass usage of major networks, like MSNBC & CNN!

A consistent public relations program (that might include press releases) will help build general awareness of your product, service or brand and will supplement any direct marketing and advertising efforts. One good media placement, whether it’s an online blog, like Huffington Post or an online print counterpart, like Inc., can lead to a substantial increase in web traffic and sales growth potential. For many small businesses, the press release is still the most cost-effective way to get their unique angle out to local media.

TopRank has been a pioneer in the field of using press releases as an online marketing tool since 2001 when the agency was founded. In fact, there was a period of 3-4 years where TopRank provided SEO consulting to PRWeb to help them improve the search visibility of press releases being purchased by PRWeb customers.

That said, press releases have evolved from a largely media relations-based discipline to a modern profession steeped in a complex mix of stakeholder engagement, reputation management and services that blend paid, earned and owned media (i.e., advertising, PR and marketing).

Let’s not leave out the importance of the online newsroom and it’s evolution as a resource hub for today’s journalists. With the proliferation of social media, the online newsroom has become a must-have digital tool for all areas of communication, including investor relations, employee relations, marketing and brand awareness.

Press releases represent content, although the format, application and distribution have evolved. They can still reach journalists, but are also effective as direct to consumer content marketing as well.

Digital News Surpasses Radio and Television

Online and digital news consumption, meanwhile, continues to increase, with many more people now getting news on cell phones, tablets or other mobile platforms. The percentage of Americans saying they saw news or news headlines on a social networking site yesterday has doubled – from 9% to 19% – since 2010.

Among adults younger than age 30, as many saw news on a social networking site the previous day (33%) as saw any television news (34%), with just 13% having read a newspaper either in print or digital form.

While traditional news platforms have lost audience, online news consumption has been undergoing major changes as well. Nearly one-in-five Americans (17%) say they got news yesterday on a mobile device yesterday, with the vast majority of these people (78%) getting news on their cell phone. Among smartphone owners, nearly a third (31%) got news yesterday on a mobile device.

These are some of the findings in the Pew Research Center’s biennial news consumption survey, which has tracked patterns in news use for nearly two decades.

Modern Public Relations Defined

After nearly a year of research, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA is a TopRank client) announced the winning definition of modern public relations:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

They also listed a number of reasons companies use news releases and why.

  • New product announcement
  • Significant modification to an existing product
  • Changes in corporate identity, such as a new company name or logo
  • New website
  • Joint ventures
  • Changes in corporate structure (New division or subsidiary)
  • Corporate opinions (Opinion on industry trends)
  • Features
  • Events (Open houses, trade show involvement, speaking engagements, award ceremonies)
  • New funding
  • Personnel changes
  • Corporate philanthropy (Volunteer work or donations)
  • Hiring of agencies (Public relations, accounting, law firm)
  • New partners
  • Significant new customer
  • Media advisories
  • Milestones (Customers served, years in business)
  • Round of funding received by the company
  • Increase in market share or revenue

That’s a long list of reasons why your organization should be including news releases in your ongoing content marketing arsenal.

Pros 

  • Although Google discounts links coming from press release syndication, an optimized press release is still crawled by search engines and found by both consumers and journalists.
  • Multimedia news releases allow you to deliver your news in a multimedia format blending video, audio, text, logos, photos and related documents to help expand the reach of your news.
  • A digital press release can be distributed much more quickly than emailing relevant trade press and reaches a larger audience through online syndication.
  • A press release is more cost effective than traditional advertising to get the word out.
  • You benefit from the amplification effect by embedding social media links, extending both the reach and life of your releases online.

Cons

  • Creating a regular calendar of relevant news may tax your internal resources; alternatively, hiring professional writers who can provide a fresh take on a news story may be outside your budget.
  • Press releases are hard to measure ROI; generating a lot of referral traffic may not lead to sales.
  • While press releases are less expensive than paid advertising, when counting number of man-hours or consulting fees, they are not necessarily cheap.
  • If you don’t have the resources to push your release out through social media and bloggers, mainstream media or trade organizations, press releases by themselves, won’t improve your communication with your target audiences.
  • Competition for distribution is high; there is no guarantee your release will be successful.

What the Experts Are Saying

“Before the rise of social media, public relations were about trying to manage the message an entity was sharing with its different audiences. Now, P.R. has to be more about facilitating the ongoing conversation in an always-on world.” Adam Lavelle, a member of the board of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association who is the chief strategic officer at the iCrossing unit of Hearst.

“In a world where the ordinary consumer is walking around with global publishing power in his or her pocket, the role of public relations and corporate communications has shifted from creating content to attempting to influence the content that’s created by others.” Dan Tisch, chairman of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, chief executive at Argyle Communications

Press Release Examples

Carnegie Mellon

This 113-year old Pittsburgh institution of higher learning isn’t resting on its reputation alone to get the word out. Carnegie Mellon is in the news nearly 365 days a year. From ground-breaking research to award-winning faculty, the university prides itself on an interdisciplinary philosophy. To that end, below is a press release for their College of Fine Arts, promoting an International Film Festival.

Press Release as Content Marketing

What Carnegie Mellon is Doing Right:

  • Topic optimized headline which helps with branding and search visibility
  • Excellent use of hyperlinks to provide a scented trail of additional information for media and attendees
  • Prominent display of a number of social sharing buttons, increasing amplification potential
  • Effective layout, color and use of photography

Coca-Cola

Here’s an example of a brand demonstrating the characteristics of the real-time, data-driven newsroom — a model that’s prolific, agile and audience-centric and takes the online newsroom one step further with its brand journalism website.

Press Releases as Content Marketing

What Coca-Cola is Doing Right:

  • Visually creative layout consistent with brand messaging
  • Provides a centralized, social-media-equipped online information headquarters for mainstream journalists and consumer
  • Offers a digital tool for all areas of communication, including investor relations, employee relations, marketing and brand awareness
  • Coca-Cola has invested heavily in social business and it shows. With seven of the most popular social networks prominently featured in the footer, along with follower numbers, making it easy for users to engage everywhere.

Content Marketing With Press Releases Best Practices

  • Write a catchy, interesting and keyword- focused headline.
  • Make the intro/opening engaging.
  • Write in laymen’s language. Avoid superlatives, jargon and excessive mentions of a brand name.
  • Make the release useable, word for word, if cut after the second paragraph.
  • Keep most paragraphs to below 30 words and the length no more than 650 words max.
  • Spell check and then read your news release aloud. Any typos or grammatical errors will ultimately lead to your news being discarded and can tarnish your reputation.
  • Repress the urge to use fancy fonts, colors, font styles and other text attributes in your news release. You’ll come off as an amateur.
  • Include relevant links for background information. Make it easy for journalists and news consumers to conduct further research.
  • Make it easy to share; include all your social networks.
  • Send only news releases that contain news!

Press releases represent a great way to engage in inbound marketing. No longer do you have to rely on a constantly churning media list to secure coverage and visibility. Today, your press release has thousands of opportunities to make a lasting impression online.

Are you still using press releases as part of your media relations or online marketing mix? Do you use press release distribution services or do you send them directly to your media contacts list?

To check out more of our content marketing tactics articles, please be sure to visit the index.

Photo credit: Shutterstock


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Online Discovery Tips That Will Get Your Content Promoted – Tips from Sarah Skerik of PR Newswire http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/09/online-discovery-tips-that-will-get-your-content-promoted-tips-from-sarah-skerik-of-pr-newswire/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/09/online-discovery-tips-that-will-get-your-content-promoted-tips-from-sarah-skerik-of-pr-newswire/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 20:30:21 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=15718 Did you know? In one second on the internet there are 12,964 Instagram photos uploaded, 50,000 Tumblr posts, 400,000 Tweets.  Among all this user-content that’s created every second, you have a LOT of competition for your buyer’s attention. Sarah Skerik, Vice President of Content Marketing at PR Newswire, shared lots of tips in her breakout session [...]

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Sarah Skerik Content Marketing WorldDid you know? In one second on the internet there are 12,964 Instagram photos uploaded, 50,000 Tumblr posts, 400,000 Tweets.  Among all this user-content that’s created every second, you have a LOT of competition for your buyer’s attention.

Sarah Skerik, Vice President of Content Marketing at PR Newswire, shared lots of tips in her breakout session presentation at Content Marketing World around creating press releases or creative content and how you can get them promoted so your target audience will see it.

“If you publish it, will they convert even see the dang thing?”

Build Discovery into Content Strategy:

  1. The most emailed & most shared stories get the most action – make a point to mine content that gets high engagement elsewhere.
  2. Demonstrate a timely response – FM Global Insurance company responded in an almost real-time way to a Hurricane Task Force Report released by the government and issued a press release linking back to their relevant disaster insurance web content. Tie your thought leadership to relevant events as quickly as possible – because people are already talking about them.
  3. Capitalize on trends & issues – positively. Jim Beam Honey Liquor creates the humorous “issue” of how bees were in danger due to bears – writing some viral, humorous content for the perfect channel – BuzzFeed.
  4. Use Editorial Calendars to inform strategy & timing – Most magazines list their upcoming editorial calendars on their website – spending some time creating content around the topics they already have planned will give you a leg up on what people in that industry will be talking about at that time.
  5. Leverage sponsored/owned content – leverage pieces/studies that other companies generated to use as your own news – highlighting the statistical piece that is most relevant to you.
  6. Utilize seasonal and recurring events – The Super Bowl and holidays are great times – to drive your content. There’s attention and conversation around the seasonal topic, so tell stories that will be found due to their timeliness.
  7. Distribute the content – Consider a multimedia news release – turn a press release into a video, Slideshare, ebook, etc. to reach multiple audiences

Distribution Deep Dive

“It’s not a press release, it’s a vehicle for all sorts of news and info.”

  1. Find, connect with and quote the people who care – Send your important and relevant information to someone who’s important in your industry, in the hopes that they’ll share it socially with their networks. It’s worth a shot!
  2. Use free press release distribution sites – judiciously – PRLog and PitchEngine are two great free options. Focus on different message elements than you would for traditional paid PR, and be sure to use trackable links.
  3. Balance your time & efforts against your results – Measure what worked against what didn’t work – and use that to guide you for the next time.

“It takes almost 4 months for the average release to accumulate most of its views.” (Give it time to do its job.)

Fast Formatting Tips & Tactics Proven to Improve Results

  1. Headline length really matters. Yours should be somewhere between 80-130 characters. Search Engines will pull 65 characters, the Associated Press will show 80, and your Twitter headline will show ~100 characters. Use a subhead to keep peers happy if you can’t get your message across within the character allotments.
  2. Employ multimedia elements to your content – Visuals have their own distribution networks and draw eyeballs.
  3. Dump the speed-bump. Give the reader a reason to keep reading past the initial sentence. (Don’t bog down the reader with a huge description of your business. “XYZ company, a blah blah leader in blah blah technology based in blah blah…”)
  4. Embed a Call-To-Action – near the TOP rather than the bottom and link it strategically. Think about servicing the reader, and not solely about the SEO. Be sure to link to any profiles of those quoted in the message.
  5. Use keywords – being specific about your keywords makes the search interest more qualified in viewing your content.

If you utilize all these tips, it does sound like it requires a lot of steps and work to make one piece of content happen – but keep in mind the fact that you’re able to re-purpose it and distribute to multiple channels, making it more valuable than it being just one piece.

So remember, just because you publish it, doesn’t mean they’ll see it – take every step possible to ensure that doesn’t happen.


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How to Maintain Your Reputation During a Social Media Crisis http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/08/social-media-crisis/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/08/social-media-crisis/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 11:05:58 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=15656 In our digitally-driven age, most companies will eventually encounter a social media-driven crisis. Perhaps an employee accidentally tweets an insensitive remark on the company account, or the business is suddenly caught in a whirlwind of negative commentary on Facebook. Whatever the case, you need to be prepared for any blowback that might occur – and [...]

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social media crisisIn our digitally-driven age, most companies will eventually encounter a social media-driven crisis. Perhaps an employee accidentally tweets an insensitive remark on the company account, or the business is suddenly caught in a whirlwind of negative commentary on Facebook. Whatever the case, you need to be prepared for any blowback that might occur – and it likely won’t be comforting.

Whether the crisis was instigated internally or externally, it’s important to develop a social media crisis plan before engaging with your communities.

Here are six tactics to help manage a social media crisis:

1. Establish Social Media Crisis Guidelines

Does your social plan account for crisis responses? Even if a post or comment seems harmless, your followers might be confused by the sudden shift in messaging. Create guidelines for responding to posts or comments during a crisis. In most internal cases, an offending post should be deleted – and a correction or apology quickly offered. For external comments, evaluate the content before deleting it – most followers won’t appreciate being silenced on the company page.

2. Respond Immediately, and Follow Through

Don’t let offending posts linger on your account. Pull them immediately, and issue an apology or retraction. This shows that you are actively monitoring your social channels – and that you give great weight to your brand’s social reputation. Follow up on this retraction post by responding to user questions and concerns, so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to hide from the crowd.

When a rogue tweet was sent criticizing President Obama on the KitchenAid account, the company’s senior director of marketing took control and invited followers to discuss the issue.

KitchenAid

3. Be Sincere

The worst crisis response on social media is the copy-and-paste response. Companies use this to blanket networks with the same prepared remarks, often in direct response to consumer questions and comments. Such a strategy leaves the company in reactionary mode, flailing their virtual arms and hoping things will get better.

Applebee’s found itself under scrutiny earlier this year after they fired a waitress for posting a customer’s receipt on Facebook. Users flocked to the company page to express their frustrations – which prompted Applebee’s to commit several sins of social media.

After deflecting blame and trying to stifle the conversation, Applebee’s simply began publishing the same post for each commenter:

Applebee's tweet 1

Applebee's tweet 2

Effective crisis response begins by putting a sincere, human face behind the messaging. When a company resorts to copy-and-paste social crisis management, all sincerity and authenticity is instantly lost.

Use Humor…When Appropriate

It may not be effective in every circumstance, but humor can be used to quickly deflect a crisis situation. The American Red Cross posted a clever reaction tweet after one of its employees accidentally posted about her evening plans on the organization’s account:

Red Cross Tweet

It’s a gutsy move to respond with humor, so make sure your audience can get the joke. Otherwise, you’ve only made the problem worse by appearing aloof and desperate.

4. Monitor Scheduled Posts During Crisis Response

Social management programs like HootSuite are valuable for organizing your content, but they can also disrupt your crisis response at exactly the wrong time. As you respond to the situation, make sure any previously scheduled marketing posts aren’t published in the meantime. It doesn’t help your brand to publish unrelated content as you manage your response. Suspend scheduled posts until you’ve fully addressed the situation according to your social management plan.

This should also be done in the event of a national or global crisis, so your brand doesn’t appear disconnected or insensitive.

5. Use Follower Feedback to Update Your Response Plan

After the crisis has died down, evaluate your social team’s strategies and tactics. Research new ways to control social content, and revamp your crisis plan based on feedback from followers. Learn from your mistakes, and you’ll be less likely to repeat them.

Social media communication is instantaneous, and it can magnify mistakes in seconds. Use these tips to prevent brand miscommunication, and ensure your social management plan is fully equipped to handle crises. Your brand’s online reputation can survive an accidental tweet or post – but only if you act fast to remedy the situation.

Does your company have a social media crisis plan at the read? What monitoring tools are you using to stay on top of potential developments?

Photo source: Shutterstock


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Google Did Not Just Kill PR Agencies http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/08/google-did-not-just-kill-pr-agencies/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/08/google-did-not-just-kill-pr-agencies/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 10:50:07 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=15584 Google updated their content guidelines for links recently causing a bit of buzz amongst the SEO community, mostly from those looking for clarification. I’ll get to that shortly, but something else popped up that’s worth debunking. The link scheme clarifications directed at webmasters also attracted a post from ZDNet via Tom Foremski’s sensationally titled article, [...]

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Google Kill PR AgenciesGoogle updated their content guidelines for links recently causing a bit of buzz amongst the SEO community, mostly from those looking for clarification. I’ll get to that shortly, but something else popped up that’s worth debunking.

The link scheme clarifications directed at webmasters also attracted a post from ZDNet via Tom Foremski’s sensationally titled article, “Did Google just kill PR agencies?”.

In case you didn’t know, PR agencies do a lot more that create press releases, let alone over-optimize them for search.

Companies rely on PR firms for a variety of services and consulting ranging from strategy and message development to media relations and social media outreach to monitoring and reporting.  Product launches, press conferences, event management and promotion, reputation and crisis management, media training, investor relations and of course content creation are all services provided by different PR agencies.

Press releases are most often at the top of the list of public relations content along with reports, white papers, newsletters, case studies, corporate website pages, newsrooms, blog posts, short form social media content and media from images to audio to video.  To suggest that overly optimized press releases and other content will bring down the PR industry is simply a sensational headline.

It’s true, there are a lot of changes happening in the PR world right now and one area in particular that’s worth exploring risks and rewards involves the shift to native ads or as Google calls it, “commerce journalism”.  I talked with Cara Posey about this recently and will likely post more about it here. But back to this business of optimized press releases killing PR agencies. Really?

So what’s all the fuss about? Is there merit in that Google’s guidelines can affect PR agencies or their clients?

Yes. But no more than the large number of small businesses and marketing consultants that fuel the the optimized press release distribution industry. That’s right. I’ll wager that if you asked a service like PRWeb who the bulk of their press release distribution customers are, it’s not PR agencies. It’s small businesses and marketing consultants.

This business about natural and unnatural links is a SEO thing more than a Public Relations thing. But as you know, our position is that anyone who creates content online should be aware of SEO best practices, so here’s more about the recent changes.

Google’s updated guidelines take an aggressive stance towards any kind of link building that isn’t “natural”:

“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

To be more specific, some examples include:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
  • Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links

The excerpt that was extrapolated on as the doom of all PR agencies was the following with the blue text representing “unnatural” keyword links:

Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

Clearly the passage above is overly aggressive in pointing keyword links (anchor text links) to a page for the purposes of increasing it’s ranking. If you’re doing that, it’s not going to help you. It may even hurt the site you’re linking to.

If you’re doing that sort of thing with press releases, contributed articles or guest posts, maybe you can reconsider and start writing content people will actually want to read!  If you are compelled to write and link gratuitously with keywords, at least add the re=”nofollow” attribute to the link so they don’t pass Page Rank.

In fact, when it comes to articles and press releases, Google’s position is to nofollow everything.  You may as well treat press releases as if they were advertising. And why not? Create a compelling news story, link it to a landing page and use a news release distribution service to drive exposure to your “offer”.

So on a go forward, links in guest posts, contributed articles and press releases should probably have a rel=”nofollow” attribute added to them to make the Google webspam team happy.

But what about links that are already in past press releases and articles?  In a response to a question Barry Schwartz asked during a Webmaster Central hangout, Google’s John Mueller suggests cleaning them up:

“We want to really make clear that we see this (press release links) as an unnatural link. So we want to make it easier for people to go through their back links and clean up these things if they’re aware of any kind of issues they’ve had there.”

Here’s the full video of the hangout:

If it still seems a little fuzzy as to what kinds of links are OK and which to avoid, here’s a video with the head of Google’s webspam team, Matt Cutts (and a co-worker named Sandy) explaining what “natural” and “unnatural” links are.

I should note that besides the linking guideline update for the general search on Google.com, Google has been taking a closer look at online news sources for quality as well. Earlier this year Google made it very clear on the Google News blog that advertorial and paid links would not be accepted and could result in removal: “we may exclude your entire publication from Google News.”

So Google’s position on editorial content and links vs. paid content and links isn’t exactly new, but the revised language makes it pretty clear there’s a crackdown on links that are not editorial or merit based.

How do you avoid being penalized from unnatural links? The link to Google News blog above covers this as does a post on Ragan, but it’s essentially about making it easy for Google to understand which content and links are paid and which are editorial.  You can do that by:

1. Putting paid content on a sub-domain or sub-folder and then blocking Googlebot from crawling that content with a robots.txt file or meta tags

2. Make sure paid links (ads) have rel=”nofollow” added to the link attribute whether those links are pointing to your site from sponsored content on another site or from your own site linking out (assuming the link was paid or an ad and not editorial).

Google will send Webmasters a notice if their site has been identified as having violated Webmaster Content Quality Guidelines. Of course in order to get those messages, you need a Google Account and your site needs to be connected with Google Webmaster Tools first.

But even if you comply with Google’s latest content guidelines, who’s to say they won’t take things even further? What if all Google traffic to your website disappeared? What’s your contingency plan? If you don’t want to be left with zero options other than online advertising, maybe you need to think about “UnGoogling” your online marketing. That’s a topic for another blog post.

In the meantime, I’m curious if you have been sending out press releases through distribution services with anchor text links? Now that you are aware of Google’s updated linking guidelines, will you change how you approach press releases? Blog posts? Articles?

Do you have any further questions, please post those as well.

Image source: Shutterstock

 


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How Public Relations & Communications Can Win the Content Marketing Race http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/06/pr-communications-content-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/06/pr-communications-content-marketing/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 11:00:19 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=15387 In today’s fast moving search and social web, content flows in every direction throughout a variety of platforms, formats and devices. With a global population of over 7 billion, there are over 2.3 billion internet users. More importantly, there are 6.7 billion mobile subscribers – 91% market penetration (source). Ubiquitous internet access is enabling consumers [...]

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Public Relations Content MarketingIn today’s fast moving search and social web, content flows in every direction throughout a variety of platforms, formats and devices.

With a global population of over 7 billion, there are over 2.3 billion internet users. More importantly, there are 6.7 billion mobile subscribers – 91% market penetration (source). Ubiquitous internet access is enabling consumers and brands alike to create, consume, publish, interact and transact – anytime, anywhere.

At the same time, “newsrooms have 30% fewer reporters than in 2000, which corresponds with 31% of US adults that have stopped turning to a news outlet because it no longer provided them with the news they were accustomed to getting.” (Contently)

Brands are answering the call to create more value for customers by publishing news and content marketing. In fact, 86% of BtoC and 91% of BtoB organizations are now using content marketing tactics.

As companies adopt a publisher model of content and media creation, many are beginning to rival the reach and influence of the publications in their industry. Amex OPEN Forum and General Mills’ Tablespoon are great examples of this.

What do these changes mean for Public Relations and Communications professionals? How is PR competitively positioned compared to marketing and advertising in a content centric web? Read on for answers to these questions and more.

By providing news content that traditional sources are not, brands are creating new connections with their communities and customers. While much of content marketing falls under the realm of corporate marketing, the expertise in messaging, content creation and media relations that many Public Relations professionals bring to the table can offer a competitive advantage in 3 key areas:

Storytelling

There’s an old expression that has held true for me over the past 15 years: “Facts tell, stories sell”. Content Marketing is the ability to tell brand stories that consumers and the media will care about. Who better to find and tell those stories than PR and Communications pros?

It is often said that people make decisions based on emotion but justify them with logic. Therein lies the intersection of PR and content marketing. Stories can connect with customers on an emotional level and the architected narrative of content marketing can provide a vehicle for both facts and stories that matter to your customers.

Editorial Based Marketing

Before “content marketing” became the catchphrase, I used to call what our Marketing/PR agency did “editorial based marketing”. PR professionals understand how news organizations work. Businesses are investing in content from planning to production to editorial. Corporate Journalism is on the rise and PR professionals are perfectly capable of fulfilling those functions or supporting them to create compelling brand content. Content designed to engage also inspires action – whether it’s a social share, a purchase, a referral or an inquiry to do a story.

Influencer Marketing

Working with industry and media influencers has been the stock and trade of media relations professionals for years. Numerous tools from Traackr to Klout to Kred can support the need to identify influencers based on their ability to affect action – not just high follower counts. PR professionals are well positioned to identify and engage influencers for a variety of content marketing based outcomes ranging from guest blog posts to co-creation of content with industry thought leaders.

Now more than ever, creating content that influences growth in market awareness and new business requires an integrated approach. While this has been a challenge for many PR professionals as marketing and PR functions converge, the good news is that through a model of Attract, Engage and Convert, organizations can better plan, implement and optimize the performance of their content based PR programs.

At the upcoming PRSA Digital Impact conference in New York (Friday June 28, 3:15pm), I’ll be discussing details of this approach along with tactics and examples in a presentation: “Attract, Engage and Convert: How PR Can Get Ahead With Content Marketing“.  The 3 key areas I’ll be covering include:

  • See a company successfully integrating digital marketing and public relations.
  • Get five best practices for 360-degree content marketing and digital public relations.
  • Find tools for better content planning, management and amplification.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Is your company integrating public relations and communications with content marketing? Are you making investments in corporate journalism and are those efforts working in tandem with both PR and Marketing objectives?

Photo: Shutterstock


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Integrating Digital Marketing & PR – Breaking Down Silos Through Content http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/05/integrating-digital-marketing-pr/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/05/integrating-digital-marketing-pr/#comments Mon, 20 May 2013 12:11:38 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=15248 For a recent presentation at a corporate communications and PR conference, I polled my network of digital marketing and PR pros working client-side about the most pressing questions they’re dealing with when it comes to integrating Marketing and Public Relations. Since we’ve been working in the digital marketing and PR space at TopRank Marketing for [...]

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digital marketing PRFor a recent presentation at a corporate communications and PR conference, I polled my network of digital marketing and PR pros working client-side about the most pressing questions they’re dealing with when it comes to integrating Marketing and Public Relations.

Since we’ve been working in the digital marketing and PR space at TopRank Marketing for well over 10 years, it was interesting to see  the diverse feedback from companies of various sizes and industries. But several themes revealed themselves that I think our readers will relate to.

Thanks to feedback from Digital and Integrated Marketing Communications professionals like Corinne Kovalsky of Ratheon, Susan Beatty of Bremer Financial Corporation, Frank Strong of LexisNexis, Lesly Cardec from Randstad US, Sarah Skerik from PRNewswire and Pam Didner of Intel, it became clear that one of the key questions organizations are facing is the need to break down silos between marketing and PR.

break down silos marketing public relations

To help answer that question, I think one of the most fundamental things to realize is that we’re all in the content business.

PR and Communications drive a substantial amount of content creation from developing messaging strategy to content for newsrooms. PR content that can be optimized, socialized and publicized include: blog posts, press releases, case studies, social media content, newsletters, contributed articles, white papers, events (online and off).  Whether it’s text, image, audio or video, most PR pros are involved in content creation on a regular basis.

Content is the currency for building social relationships that can boost earned media.

Digital Marketing is tasked with demand creation and developing leads, and content plays an instrumental role in those and many other marketing objectives. From content marketing strategy to websites and microsites, content is the basis for effective digital marketing. We’ve covered content marketing tactics here before, but they can include blogs, landing pages, social media content, advertising, webinars, email and all media formats from images to video to audio.

Understanding the role that content plays in reaching both brand awareness and customer acquisition goals, the opportunities for integration between digital marketing and PR become clear pretty fast.

Align Goals

When you look at common Public Relations focused goals, they often include: Boosting Awareness & Exposure, Influence & Positioning, Increase Mindshare, Educate Audiences, Thought Leadership, Reputation, Growing Networks & Engagement and even Increasing Sales.

Often these goals are achieved through a variety of efforts that leverage or result in content. Digital PR tactics can range from media relations to gain editorial coverage in publications to events to working with influencers and social networks. Announcements, publicity, promotions and buzz are all the domain for PR and communications professionals.

Some of the metrics digital marketers are held accountable to include increasing website traffic, leads and sales. Content Marketing goals also include revenue related objectives like order volume, frequency and profitability. Efficiency is also aligned with content marketing performance as measured by shortened sales cycles, referrals bottom line ROI on marketing investment.

Since both marketing and PR both speak “increase sales”, it make sense that PR should be involved with content marketing in its planning stages to identify what’s “really” promotable from a media relations perspective.  Building publicity and media relations activities into the content marketing planning process will help marketing extend the reach of it’s message and improve marketing performance.

At the same time PR will have early exposure to promotable brand content to successfully achieve media coverage and network growth vs. trying to make magic happen with last minute requests: “Can you send out a press release and talk to some bloggers about our new product future? It was released this morning”. For both marketing and PR, there can be a measurable effect on sales and we all know revenue is the language everyone understands.

Common Ground:

An extension of aligning goals between marketing and PR is to find the win for those that you would partner with in your organization. Find out how can marketing assets be used to improve the ability for PR to gain media coverage. At the same time, dig into how PR can play a role in content marketing amplification to improve the reach and performance. Recruit volunteers to test cooperative efforts between digital marketing and PR.

Some of the common ground opportunities for digital marketing and public relations include:

  • Messaging & Story
  • Content Planning
  • Coordinated Social and Media Relations with Amplification
  • Social Listening for Buying Signals
  • Content Placement
  • Optimizing Messaging Based on Marketing Performance Data

Coordinating marketing and PR in content marketing efforts can find the common ground needed to execute on shared goals. That alignment of objectives can lead to the development of new ways of working together that create a win for everyone involved.

Build a Business Case

Goal alignment and common ground serve as a framework for building a business case. Find a low hanging fruit opportunity with motivated collaborators to show how digital marketing and PR integration can improve achievement of business goals. Then sell the results with performance metrics that execs can appreciate.

One of the most basic examples of this kind of collaboration is a co-created thought leader ebook. We’ve created quite a few of these and they represent the integration of key maketing and PR in a way that is pretty easy to demonstrate value for both awareness and network growth as well as traffic and sales.

Co-created content builds an incentive for participants to promote the content object. Publicity, content repurposing, targeted ads, email promotions, social promotion and optimization combine with thoughtful messaging to create an integrated marketing and PR asset that provides a tremendous amount of value for PR and marketing goals.

In the digital marketing world, skills acquisition is as competitive as it has ever been with PR high on the list.  With more brands publishing content and even competing with publications in their industry, the need for integrated marketing and PR functions within companies is a necessity. The question is, what is your company, large or small, doing about it?

If you would like to learn more about integrating marketing and PR, be sure sign up for the PRSA Digital Impact conference in June where I’ll be presenting “Attract, Engage and Convert: How PR Can Get Ahead With Content Marketing“.  This topic is also covered at both a strategic and tactical level in Optimize as well.

Image: Shutterstock


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Keynote Presentation: Digital Convergence of Public Relations & Marketing http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/05/digital-convergence-public-relations-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/05/digital-convergence-public-relations-marketing/#comments Wed, 08 May 2013 16:39:48 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=15225 Today I’m giving a keynote at the sold-out Communicator’s Conference in Portland, Oregon to 270 or so PR and Communications professionals. The colliding or collaborating (depending on your situation) worlds of digital marketing and PR have left a lot of ambiguity about roles, goals and responsibilities between these 2 very important groups. In this presentation [...]

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Integrated Marketing Public RelationsToday I’m giving a keynote at the sold-out Communicator’s Conference in Portland, Oregon to 270 or so PR and Communications professionals.

The colliding or collaborating (depending on your situation) worlds of digital marketing and PR have left a lot of ambiguity about roles, goals and responsibilities between these 2 very important groups.

In this presentation I outline why PR should care about marketing, 3 big trends to watch for and 3 of the most common questions brand PR and corporate communicators have (I polled my LinkedIn network) about integrating PR and marketing. I finish things off with a plan for how PR and communications can tap into digital marketing expertise and contribute messaging and storytelling for more meaningful and impactful marketing / PR performance.

Here’s the full deck on Slideshare, which is featured on their home page.

I’d love to hear what your biggest concerns or observations are about the convergence of digital marketing and public relations roles.

Update: Portland’s NewsChannel 8 covered the conference and included me in their broadcast. Big thanks to Joe Smith for doing the interview and also to Barbara Kerr for setting it up:


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Brands Gone Wild: Social Media Marketing Fails & Lessons Learned http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/04/social-fails-lessons/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/04/social-fails-lessons/#comments Thu, 25 Apr 2013 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=15169 So you want your campaign to go viral… Let’s keep in mind your business objectives, shall we? As these social marketing fails will show, campaigns may take off but go seriously sideways if companies place popularity above purpose. Some companies can afford more risk and racier campaigns than others, yet risk in business must always [...]

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Social media campaigns gone wrong.So you want your campaign to go viral…

Let’s keep in mind your business objectives, shall we? As these social marketing fails will show, campaigns may take off but go seriously sideways if companies place popularity above purpose.

Some companies can afford more risk and racier campaigns than others, yet risk in business must always be mitigated and justifiable based on the potential rewards. You might disagree with my opinion on the campaigns featured in this post, but I believe the risks should have been evident from the start and far outweighed the potential payoff.

These examples may cause you to shake your head, or enjoy a good belly laugh, but each is a fantastic learning opportunity for social media marketers.

Money Can’t Buy You Love – nor Common Sense

We’ll kick off with KFC’s #IatetheBones. Fried chicken execs are literally throwing everything they’ve got at their viral tagline, which they expect to be the next “Where’s the Beef?” Launched April 14th, the campaign has invested in it an estimated $50 million budget, Interpublic’s DraftFCB agency and an Academy Award winning director for the ads. Considering this tagline is to take them boldly into their new position as a boneless chicken brand, the budget and scope are not all that surprising.

Why, then, did no one stop to consider the potential negative effects of associating a food brand with sexual innuendo and dead bodies? Worse still, did they consider it and decide it was worth rolling the dice? When you read the user-generated content on #IatetheBones, that a food brand would approve of the association puts KFC squarely in Quizno’s horrendous “2 Girls, 1 Sub” space.

As I’m writing this, one sentiment analysis tool puts the amount of positive buzz around #IatetheBones at just 51%. Compare that to 80% positive sentiment for the @kfc brand itself on Twitter. The hashtag sentiment analysis came from a sample of 50 tweets, so I tried another tool to compare, which analyzed in real-time and came up with 74% negativity around the #IatetheBones hashtag.

Apparently the hashtag did well in test markets and inspired people to go online and share videos and comments. Unfortunately, people are sharing memes of people choking on chicken bones, or Hannibal Lecter:

They’re resurfacing years-old animal rights videos and tagging them with #IatetheBones, making those videos appear in social search again with this new campaign. They’re blindly tweeting on the hashtag with no message at all, trying to make it trend. Is this convincing anyone to go buy boneless or think better of the brand? Probably not when they’re sharing tweets about how much fun they’re having with their chicken and dead girls:

Twitter Search for KFC #IatetheBones social media fail

Did no one on the entire team it took to put all of this together realize or even care that “bone” invites all kinds of not-even-subtle phallic and cannibalistic commentary?

“Where’s the Beef?” worked because it’s catchy, cute and relatable. Everyone has a beef at some point. We’re not all going to eat the bones. Ya dig?

Then, I could be completely wrong. Maybe this one really will take off and KFC will have ushered in a new pop culture catchphrase as the result of their clever marketing. I still think it seems far more likely the conversation is going to continue its downward spiral, finally crashing and burning at the precise point that reading the tweets on #IatetheBones would make Tommy Lee blush.

If You Want to Gamble on User-Generated Content, At Least Be Sure Customers Like You

Moving right along, another memorable social campaign fail also came from a fast food giant – THE fast food giant – by way of #McDStories. McDonalds’ campaign kicked off innocently enough, with two tweets sharing stories about their employees, food and suppliers.

McDonald's social media campaign goes horribly wrong

The problem with viral marketing is that it takes users generating and sharing content to make it popular. As McDonald’s learned, you just never know what people are going to share. #McDStories tweets told tales of everything from throwing up Happy Meals to animal abuse to things I can’t even type as they make me a bit queasy.

Is that good branding? Is the gamble on a viral tagline worth potentially damaging your brand to the point people are still talking about the episode over a year later? I’m guessing in McDonald’s case, their sales didn’t suffer too terribly, though you have to wonder if their investment was money well spent. McDonald’s later admitted that “#mcdstories did not go as planned.” Fail.

A Reputation Takes Years to Build and One Stupid Social Campaign to Destroy

Next up:

Belvedere's social campaign was horrifyingly wrong.

Yes, friends, this actually happened. Some social media rocket scientist thought this was a good thing to post to Belvedere’s Facebook and Twitter pages.  Do I even need to elaborate? No, the portrayal of a rape scene is not a good endorsement for your alcoholic beverage. Spokespeople for the company were sorry. Unfortunately, this was so ill-conceived – and there were so many stops along the way someone should have thrown up a roadblock – that no one really cared how sorry they were.

Other dishonorable mentions for social media campaigns that should never have seemed a good idea, even at the time, go to:

  • American Apparel for their completely classless Hurricane Sandy sale.
  • Microsoft for asking Windows Phone Twitter followers to share horror stories about Android phones on the hashtag #DroidRage. Followers virtually ripped off Microsoft’s arms and verbally beat them with the stumps, leaving a bloody trail of Windows jabs in their wake.
  • Kia for attempting to ride the coattails of the popular Cheezburger brand with a meme campaign that had one user tell the auto brand to “Get off of the internet.”

The moral of the story, marketers, is that you can probably pull off something wildly popular and crazy and risqué if you try hard enough and throw enough money at it… but do you really want to? Part of any campaign worth its salt is a critical evaluation of each element and any potential risks. Are those risks manageable? Is it really worth the risk when you can’t control your social audience?

Plan to Succeed and Never Appear in a Fail Blog

First, consider the purpose of your social marketing strategy. You may be trying to:

  • gain insight into your community
  • build brand visibility and authority
  • influence buyers
  • promote products and services
  • drive traffic to your website
  • increase search visibility

…or some combination thereof. Once you’ve established your goals, you’ll plan to employ specific tactics to help your brand achieve them. A social media marketing checklist like this one Lee Odden created and shared can help you get the right people and processes in place to execute your plan. As you implement, measure, and hopefully improve your social strategy, it’s important to remember your social presence is an extension of your business presence. You can’t get away with any more online than on television or radio; the same people are listening and they see everything you do online in an instant.

Whether all of your planning and social management takes place in-house or with the assistance of an agency, you must protect your brand. Work with professionals who value your reputation as much as you do. Choose agency partners that value performance, brand loyalty and measurable results over cutesy campaigns and “buzz.”

If you’re not sure, stop. Just stop. Calculated risk is one thing. Diving head first into issues you don’t understand (or have no real reason to talk about) simply because they’re popular or trending is an invitation for a social PR disaster – and we’ve seen plenty lately. Share the most memorable social fails you’ve seen in the comments!

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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Online PR for Brands: How to Make Company News, Real News http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/04/online-pr-company-news/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/04/online-pr-company-news/#comments Wed, 10 Apr 2013 11:00:05 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=15093 Most companies understand the benefits of a well-executed online PR strategy: improved brand visibility and industry reputation, increased traffic to the company website and even sales. It’s no wonder that companies trip over themselves to come up with a regular stream of PR related content. Unfortunately, lower barriers to entry for publishing and distributing information [...]

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Online PRMost companies understand the benefits of a well-executed online PR strategy: improved brand visibility and industry reputation, increased traffic to the company website and even sales. It’s no wonder that companies trip over themselves to come up with a regular stream of PR related content.

Unfortunately, lower barriers to entry for publishing and distributing information have resulted in a plethora of non-news littering the web.

Is there any harm in “putting it all out there,” as in writing and distributing a press release for every event, newsworthy or not? I’d argue that yes, there is potential harm. As an industry journalist, I’ve personally become annoyed with companies or PR people sending me twice-weekly emails about everything under the sun. Whether someone has moved up internally or a company is seeking another round of funding, isn’t exactly compelling news.

Pitching of that type is not bad PR. What’s being pitched just isn’t news to me.

When bloggers and media become annoyed by irrelevant content, they’re not all that likely to write about your company or contact you for expert opinion on industry news.

At the same time, when it comes to brand content, customers don’t like to have to dig for the information they need to make buying decisions. They may even stop reading your missives altogether and miss out on the real news. This is not a good thing.

The problem, then, is two-fold: too much non-news content, and poor targeting of good content. Ideally, you will create relevant, targeted content, whether for customers, prospects, investors, distributors, or other groups who may have an interest in your company news. Then it needs to reach that specific group.

Avoid confusing your different audiences with fluff content and news announcements because you feel it’s time to publish something new just to attract their attention. “More” attention isn’t nearly as desirable as the right attention.

To implement online PR tactics with more purpose and truly integrate those tactics with the rest of your online marketing strategy, read on for tips and best practices.

Know Your Goals

Set SMART goals for your online PR contentThere are two parts to this: what are your goals for your PR strategy overall as one facet of your digital marketing activities, and what are your goals for each PR piece you publish? For the purpose of this post, we have to assume you have some overarching strategy in mind and focus on individual pieces of content (or this could turn into a novel).

Think of the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting model when planning your PR content; goals must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

“We want to tell people about x, y, z,” is not a goal. Writing or otherwise creating content and throwing it into the ether is not enough. You need to know the goal of each piece of content so you can optimize and distribute it in the way that best helps you achieve your business goals. You may remember the 5 Ws from school (adapted for online PR):

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What are they going to want to do when they read this?
  • Where do they live online?
  • When is the best time to reach them with this news?
  • Why are they going to care about this news?

This might seem like a tedious exercise, but going through these considerations intentionally will help you develop a mindset where putting your reader first and aligning content with business goals becomes a habit.

Target Smartly

Is it news? The piece of information you want to release may be news to one audience segment and not another. This may be defined by considering what action you expect people to take upon reading your news piece. Are you looking for mainstream media coverage? Don’t blast a press release to your entire email list; write to journalists. Then segment your email list down to journalists. Use social tools available to you, like InMail and targeted status updates on LinkedIn, or lists on Facebook, or Google+ Circles, to deliver your news to the audience for which you wrote the piece. You need to know exactly who this is going to be before you write a word.

Your news might also be news to a very niche selection of publications. Do your research and know the editorial calendars of publications you’re targeting in upcoming months. Find the angle that makes your company news relevant and newsworthy to each and give them plenty of lead time to work you in.

Don’t Make It About You

That’s a tall order when you’re trying to share your own news, isn’t it? If it’s worth telling people about, it’s because it offers some value to their life or business. What is that value offering? Don’t make customers or shareholders connect the dots, but give it to them straight by writing from the perspective of what they want to know, rather than what you want to say. For example, say the news you are planning to announce is a new campaign within your customer loyalty program:

You can easily sit down and write about how proud you are to offer this new program, tout its benefits and have your company executives share a few really intelligent (and probably boring) soundbites about how great this is for the company and its customers.

Or…

You could lead with the news that explains exactly what this means to customers and have actual program members explain it in their own words.

Which version is a more compelling read for customers: an announcement with executives telling them what’s good for them, or someone they can relate to telling them what they’ll get out of it?

Think Hard About Format and Get Creative

Get creative and come up with fun angles for online PR contentNot everything that happens within your company is newsworthy on its own. If you find that you have a collection of maybe-its-news accomplishments or achievements you could share over the course of a couple of weeks or a month, consider starting a series. Sometimes, two or three items together carry more firepower. Sequenced content, whether on your blog, in video, via email marketing, or in another format, is a great way to interconnect your company news pieces, resurface historical content and create audience anticipation for the next piece.

The answer to “Where does my audience live online?” will also help drive your decision to publish in one format or another. Video and imagery are fantastic engagement tools on social networks, while blog posts or press releases are great opportunities for written content media can quote, cite or link up.

If you’re having trouble finding anything newsworthy at all to announce but know your PR strategy requires more visibility, get creative. What can you do today, within your budget, that is both newsworthy and helpful to your audience? Here are a few ideas:

  • Produce an industry survey with a corresponding report.
  • Perform original research into a known issue in your space.
  • Support local initiatives through charity or sponsorship.
  • Release statistics or insights gleaned from your customer data (following an accepted statistical model).
  • Develop relationships with industry media and serve as an expert source in ongoing coverage.
  • Challenge the status quo; just be sure you can back up your position.
  • Stay ahead of trends and be the first to offer insight to journalists on breaking or upcoming news.

Nurture Relationships

Do you find yourself often approaching media or influencers cold? Online PR is give and take. People in your community will support your business by engaging with your content and sharing your news; not every time, but more often for established connections than companies pitching them for the first time.

One of the top three reasons customers follow brands on social channels is because they find their content interesting. Further, 90% of consumers find custom content useful and 78% believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. Once that connection is made, it’s up to you to continue to deliver on that promise and build a mutually beneficial relationship.

Good Online PR is a Mindset, Not a Process

As you can see, there is no magic formula or simple step-by-step process for making company news more interesting and relevant. Rather, it requires research, goal-setting, creativity and careful measurement to weed out underperforming tactics and hone in on the winners.

Have you struggled to make company news interesting and engaging? Please share your story in the comments.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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Digital PR Pitching Etiquette: 3 Critical Rules for Online Public Relations Outreach http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/02/online-pr-pitching-etiquette/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/02/online-pr-pitching-etiquette/#comments Wed, 06 Feb 2013 11:00:56 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=14796 Over the course of my online marketing career, I’ve had the opportunity to participate on both sides of the online PR outreach process, pitching publications on behalf of clients as well as receiving them as a search and social industry journalist. In the course of performing outreach for clients and receiving hundreds of pitches from [...]

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Online PR rules for more effective link building, guest blog pitching and moreOver the course of my online marketing career, I’ve had the opportunity to participate on both sides of the online PR outreach process, pitching publications on behalf of clients as well as receiving them as a search and social industry journalist. In the course of performing outreach for clients and receiving hundreds of pitches from other PR professionals and in-house marketers, a few important rules became crystal clear.

Companies use online PR in a number of different ways, depending on the desired outcome. You might pitch mainstream media to offer a company executive up as an expert source on a breaking news story, in order to build your company’s credibility. Where the goal is to earn links back to your website, you may offer guest posts or interviews to industry bloggers or digital magazines. Your focus might be increased exposure in your target market, in order to increase sales of a certain product or service.

Practicing good etiquette in your outreach efforts doesn’t ensure placement in news publications or links from sources that could help your business. However, failing to follow these rules will almost certainly result in your pitch landing in the virtual Trash can.

1. Don’t Ask for Anything in a First Pitch You Wouldn’t Request the First Time Meeting a Stranger

All but the smallest of industry blogs, magazines, newsletters and other publishers get dozens or even hundreds of PR pitches a week. It’s more important than ever to establish a relationship before that first pitch, in order to go in warm and increase the chances your request will even be read.

Thankfully, this is also easier than it’s ever been. Journalists, bloggers, thought leaders and other influencers usually have social media accounts you can use to connect in advance of a pitch. This advice can be taken too far; using a churn and burn approach to relationship building quickly becomes obvious. You don’t want to be “That Guy” who is everyone’s buddy for about 5 minutes, before he asks for a product review and disappears, never to be heard from again.

Take the time to build a relationship with the people you’d like to interview with or write for – it just makes sense. Think about it: if they’re so influential in your industry (or in media in general) that you would like them to publish something about your company, why on earth wouldn’t you want to have that person in your social circle, to learn from, converse with and possibly influence yourself?

2. Do the Legwork to Ensure Your Pitch is a Good Match for the Publication

Pitching a publication with an offer to write a guest post about the different ways Product Type XYZ is used in the home is useless if they just published a post about it last week. Bloggers and other online publishers also typically have editorial guidelines and a certain style or voice to which writers must adhere. They’ll share that information with you if your pitch is selected, but you can capture their attention by showing a deep understanding of their publication in their pitch.

Try one of these tactics to stand out in the pitch pile:

  • Reference a previously published piece of content and explain how your concept builds on it, ie.: “Your October post on buttercream frosting application techniques was very helpful. My post on tools to use in this process ties nicely into that and will provide a link back to your article.”
  • Show your understanding of their audience and style, ie.: “We’ve enjoyed sharing your how-to posts internally; our staff find your direct, step-by-step approach easy to follow. In an interview, you will find I offer the same type of logical process for completing XYZ project in order to give readers everything they need to do it right, start to finish.”
  • Recommend an author, columnist or interviewer for your piece, ie.: “I’ve read many of Ashley Zeckman’s articles and felt she might be a great fit to discuss our perspective on the recent changes in the industry.”

The idea is to familiarize yourself with their work, then convey that knowledge in your pitch.

3. Come Armed with a Unique, Original Idea

First world online PR problemsEvery time Google updates their algorithm, search journalists industry-wide pull their hair out over these pitches:

“Hi Miranda, you might have heard the news about Google’s recent algorithm update. So-and-So, CEO of XYZ Company, is available to discuss what this means for marketers in an interview at your convenience. Our company has millions of clients and makes billions of dollars and we’re so awesome I can’t even believe it myself [insert more corporate PR hot air here]; when can I pencil you in?”

What is it, exactly, that you have to offer that the publication can’t find elsewhere? Have you done an original study, or seen a trend across a number of clients that might interest readers? This is what the person you are pitching wants to hear.

A direct pitch is not the place to insert the same promotional blurb you append to your press release. Ideally, you have already established a relationship with the person you are pitching and therefore need to focus on your unique value proposition. Regurgitating your Company Overview is an annoying waste of space that earns you an instant ticket to the Trash can.

The Elements of a Great Online Public Relations Pitch

Once you’ve established and nurtured relationships with the people and publications potentially open to including you as a guest blogger, expert source, featured company/product or otherwise, make sure your pitch has the following elements to stand out amongst the inbox noise:

  • A clear, descriptive Subject Line – whether via email, social messaging or otherwise, make use of that first opportunity to catch the reader’s eye and attention.
  • An introduction that states your unique value proposition upfront. Ideally, this one or two sentence intro will tell the reader who you are, why you’re a valuable source of information specific to their audience and what you bring to the table for this specific piece of content.
  • A clear description of your idea, insight or information offering. In the main body of the pitch, show the reader you have thought this out and ready to go. This isn’t the place to hold your cards close to your chest or be vague.
  • Links to a few items that may help the journalist/blogger choose you as a source over another candidate. This might include a popular social media account, an article on another (non-competitive and preferably high caliber) publication in which you were featured or a video of a speaking engagement on a related topic, for example.
  • Access to your original research or any other material to which you refer in your pitch. There is nothing more annoying than a company offering a journalist an interview based on a report they have to access via an online signup form. Just send the document; they don’t want to be on your mailing list.
  • Any timeline restrictions, if applicable. For example, if you are offering an interview on an embargoed report that will release in two days, let the person you are pitching know of any exclusivity they can have as well as the time constraint.
  • The best contact information to arrange an interview, guest post or other publicity opportunity. Amazingly, many companies release news yet are not willing to be interviewed to discuss it. Making someone available for a 15 minute phone call may give the person you are pitching the exclusive content element that influences their decision to take you on.

What has been your biggest challenge in pitching bloggers, journalists or other media? Share your stories and any tips for other readers in the comments!


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2013. | Digital PR Pitching Etiquette: 3 Critical Rules for Online Public Relations Outreach | http://www.toprankblog.com

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The Power of We: How to Build Personal & Corporate Brand Thought Leadership Through Social Content http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/02/grow-personal-brand-online/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/02/grow-personal-brand-online/#comments Mon, 04 Feb 2013 13:08:12 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=14793 Building personal brand online is easier than ever. It’s also underrated and misunderstood by many companies trying make sense of where personal and brand social media engagement fit in the marketing and communications mix. For myself, blogging, speaking and becoming an author have been less about becoming a “brandividual” than to serve as a proxy [...]

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Mari Smith & Lee Odden

Mari Smith exemplifies personal brand through social content

Building personal brand online is easier than ever. It’s also underrated and misunderstood by many companies trying make sense of where personal and brand social media engagement fit in the marketing and communications mix.

For myself, blogging, speaking and becoming an author have been less about becoming a “brandividual” than to serve as a proxy to the consulting that TopRank Online Marketing offers.  This approach has served us well, resulting in creating awareness internationally and keeping customer acquisition costs extremely low.

Alternatively, many companies focus solely on brand promotion without any real people behind those social media interactions.  This generic brand approach often finds social content efforts lacking. Engagement tends to be low, attention spent by the community superficial and the momentum of community growth is elusive.

What’s the solution?  Companies that realize there are amazing stories to be told by internal brand advocates and that scalable social media is more meaningful when there are real people behind it are investing resources into supporting a digital presence for key executives, subject matter experts and even sales or customer service staff. 

In order for everyone to win in this scenario, there are two essential considerations:

  • Which of your personal goals can be facilitated by an enhanced online and social media presence?
  • How can your online thought leadership advance the corporate brand?

When a company has a clear vision about what role social media and content will play in providing value and growing the business, then incorporating a combined personal and brand focused social content effort will help scale the social brand presence, Rather than being seen as mechanical, social interactions combine individual personalities with a common brand narrative resulting in a more meaningful online presence. This presence benefits individuals by creating more awareness of their thought leadership, which in turn reflects positively on the overall brand.

I know from experience there can be some uncertainty and even a little fear of “going social” for many executives. Drawing from my own experience and from many years of consulting with companies, here are some basic steps to get started:

1. Decide: What do you stand for? – What is your unique selling proposition? How do you want to be known in the context of your core values and your expertise within the company?

2. Discover who you’re trying to connect with and how you can help them.  Who can benefit from your knowledge and expertise? In what situations? What are their preferences for information discovery, consumption and action with social content?

3. Develop a social content plan  – Reconcile your personal value and USP (unique selling proposition) with the information needs of those you’re trying to reach. Distill the message of your own thought leadership value into statements. What are the key topics, phrases and words that best support your message? Use those concepts to support your social content plan.

4. Pick a channel and commit – Find an online home or hub for your content, whether it’s a blog, podcast or video channel. Pick spokes that will serve as channels of distribution. Commit to spending a small, but consistent amount of time growing your networks by sharing, engaging and being useful to your community.

5. Schedule participation – “No time” is the number one objection to social media participation and the simplest way to become more efficient is through planning. Networking, content creation and engagement should be scheduled in your daily plan of activities.

For example, spend 15 minutes daily finding useful resources to share and schedule that sharing to publish throughout the day. Find an hour or two, once or twice a week to create content.  Take 5-10 minutes mid-day to review social channels, answer comments and interact on your social channels.  Making social engagement and content party of your routine will ensure consistency. More time practicing these skills will also make you more efficient.

6. Borrow to build – Seek others that already “have” the thought leadership that you seek in specific areas. Find ways to interact with them through social channels, commenting and co-creation of content. Find ways to create value that existing thought leaders want. These interactions can lead to connections that result in collaboration, cross posting of content and by proxy, increased thought leadership for yourself and your brand.

7. Leverage software – Efficiency is key for time and resource starved executives, so tools are essential. In particular, tools for:

  • Monitoring social news and communities – trackur, sproutsocial
  • Curation – scoop.it, storify
  • Social engagement – hootsuite
  • Social publishing  – tumblr, wordpress

I’ve always been a fan of using a hub and spoke model for implementing this kind of approach with a blog as the hub. It doesn’t have to be your own blog either. It can be as a contributor to the corporate blog or another community blog. You don’t need numerous spokes to begin with either. I started with blogging and LinkedIn in 2003. Then I added other social networks, public speaking and more industry involvement over the next 8 years.

If just a handful of executives or public facing figures for a company become savvy about social content and building simultaneous individual and corporate brand thought leadership, the effect on scaling the company’s meaningful social presence can be substantial.

So what’s holding you back? What’s stopping you from taking a leadership position with your brand’s social media approach and activating your internal thought leadership?


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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2013. | The Power of We: How to Build Personal & Corporate Brand Thought Leadership Through Social Content | http://www.toprankblog.com

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