Author Archives: Sarah Skerik

Measuring the Business Impact of PR: Getting a Handle on Data

Visual via Flickr user FinancialAidPodcast

Visual via Flickr user FinancialAidPodcast

When assessing the ROI of a publicity campaign, it’s standard practice to asses about high-level results, such as the number of reads a message has received and the number of times a message social networks: these metrics are good measures of how well a message resonated with the audience.  But PR measurement shouldn’t stop there.  In fact, awareness is just the beginning.

Awareness is where interest starts.  Interest develops into action. Actions become purchases.  And PR is there every step of the way. Tweet this! lil tweet

In between those two points – awareness and purchase – is the journey your brand’s buyers must take, and the path is not linear.  It’s a labyrinth, full of distractions and competing options, but the stream of content deployed in executing a successful PR strategy can nurture audience interest and shepherd potential buyers through the decision process.

To develop more effective and accurate measurement, PR prose need to get closer to the organization’s business engines when assessing campaign results. Did the program shorten the sales cycle, generate better-qualified leads or increase transactions? These are important questions PR should be answering when quantifying campaign outcomes.

To measure the effect of PR campaign has upon the buyer’s journey; one must first identify the key decision points for the potential customer, and then determine PR’s impact at each of those steps.

Key decision points PR can influence & measure 

One key touch point is the buyer’s visit to the brand website. From a PR standpoint, there are a number of different opportunities for public relations to convert awareness into valuable referrals to the brand website.  The digital content organizations publish – those press releases, articles, blog posts, commentary and response created as part of the PR strategy – in effect create myriad portals to key pages on the company web site that are distributed to relevant audiences across the web.

Earned media mentions are also increasingly measurable. Brand mentions that include a link to the company website or even better, a campaign related page, are important drivers of qualify traffic.

However, other opportunities for PR to deliver – and capture – measurable top-line benefits, including:

  • Discussions on a relevant discussion group:  A thoughtful and relevant response on a digital forum is a great place to offer a link to more related information, and activity on that link can be measured.
  • Social mentions that include a link to a relevant web page.
  • Commentary on an influential industry blog:  If a post on a key blog invites comment from a brand or one of its representatives, the opportunity may arise to offer a link to related information in the response.  The content offered via the link must be highly relevant to the conversation, and should be non-promotional in nature.

Benchmark data before the campaign starts 

In all of these cases, tracking traffic to the specific page is important to measuring the PR campaign result.  Ideally, the PR team will work with the web team prior to the campaign lunch, and benchmark traffic to the pages the campaign is targeting.  In addition to benchmarking general traffic numbers, the team should also look at the third-party referring traffic to the target webpages prior to campaign launch.

When the campaign kicks off, the PR team will be able to assess the degree to which they have moved the needle by looking at those two figures: traffic to the specific pages, and new refers to those pages.

URL tracking reveals more than results

Additionally, it can be useful to include trackable URLs in any content it’s published online – including press releases, blog post comments, and references on online forms to the organization website.  Plugging URLs you can measure into content will give you more insight into audience preferences, as well as enabling you to track the click-through rate of your content piece.

In the best case scenario, the an organization that uses marketing automation software, such as Marketo, Eloqua or Hubspot, which enables the PR team to create unique URLs that are also tracked within the software, allowing the brand to capture traffic to the website and subsequently track visitor behavior.

Organizations with measurements capabilities such as these in place are then able to compare the quality of website visitors generated by the campaigns, versus visitors arriving at the web site via other channels.  Using this data, they can assess whether or not the PR efforts produced more qualified leads or shortened the sales cycles.

Taking the time to assess the brand’s current measurement practices and developing understanding of where PR can influence measurable touch points in the customer journey requires some effort, but it lays the foundation for developing meaningful measurement of PR’s impact on the business.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications & content, and is the author of  the new white paper, “New Agency Benchmarks for Demonstrating Value to Clients,” and the ebook Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

To the Relevant go the Rewards

Photo via the Lakewood Citizen (@lkwdcitizen)

Content Marketing World’s host Joe Pulizzi with Kevin Spacey at #CMWorld this year. Photo via the Lakewood Citizen (@lkwdcitizen)

How important is message relevance in gaining audience attention and swaying opinion? This year’s closing keynote at Content Marketing World provided a textbook example of power relevant messages have in developing audience connection.

In a tour de force keynote that was all too short, actor Kevin Spacey grabbed the orange-clad faithful in Cleveland by their collective noses, and brought them to their feet – numerous times.

Over the course of his talk, Spacey answered the question he posed at the outset (“What the hell am I doing here?!) proving that he belonged at a content marketing conference with an eloquent and inspiring discussion of the key elements of great storytelling, which he underpinned with a collection of fantastic stories that drove home his key points.

The presentation was a living case study in the power a relevant message designed for a specific audience.

A seasoned stage actor, Spacey understands audience connection in a more intimate way than many of us will ever experience.  In reality, he’s probably given a version of his keynote talk before – it was one that any theater or entertainment enthusiast would have enjoyed.  But by taking the time to pepper the presentation with examples drawn from the advertising and marketing realms. Spacey fine tuned his content for his audience, and as a result, was immediately accepted as credible and authentic by the crowd of savvy content marketers.

In addition to schooling the assembled on message targeting, Spacey also beautifully illustrated the galvanizing effect of a great story, illustrating his own points with specific and relevant vignettes.

While Spacey was on stage, Twitter was ablaze with tweets and Instagram was groaning under pictures uploaded by those in attendance.  In the ensuing days, blogs recapping the keynote and collections of tweets on Storify appeared and were shared in droves.  Spacey provoked a lot of on-the spot engagement and ensuing discussion.

This was in stark contrast to the closing keynotes at Content Marketing World in years past, which have  delivered heavy doses of entertainment, a welcome relief from the intensity of the preceding sessions.  Two years ago, in Columbus, Jack Hanna brought some interesting and beautiful animals to visit the CMWorld audience.   Last year, William Shatner graced the stage.  Both sessions were a lot of fun.

But Spacey clicked.  Spacey was memorable.  Spacey proved that he was one of us, and the key to the powerful connection he created with the audience was a beautifully crafted relevant message, underpinned by well-told stories.

Do you need a hand finding, telling and illustrating your brand’s stories?   Take a look at how our team at MultiVu can help you create and share your message

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications & content, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Trend Watch: Content Marketing World Day 1

Following the tweet stream from Content Marketing World (#CMWorld) is like drinking from the proverbial fire hose. Not unexpectedly, the attendees and speakers are producing quite a bit of content.

Emerging themes are bubbling up as day 1 is being recapped and digested, including:

  • Measuring business outcomes, not marketing output.  Increased spend is demanding increased rigor in measurement.
  • Aligning with the focus on outcomes, more attention is being paid to developing content for specific personas that is also mapped to buyers’ journeys.
  • Tightening the screws on content utility and relevance. Even as content marketing becomes more disciplined,  we can’t lose sight of the audience.  Content may be exquisitely aligned to personas and mapped to journeys but if doesn’t deliver value to the audience, it won’t produce results.
  • Using analytics to inform strategy.  Content marketers are increasingly mining big data sources to glean insights about what makes their audiences tick.
  • Content amplification.  Developing strategies to ensure content is seen from social seeding to actual distribution is central to achieving content success.

This is my third year at Content Marketing World, and the industry is definitely maturing.  Sessions and conversations are focusing on advanced strategy and execution, rather than more basic why-you-should-get-started discussions.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications & content, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

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Sustainable Content Strategies – Measurement & Promotion Required

L-R: Ken Wincko, Nicole Smith, Rebecca Lieb, Michael Praniloff

L-R: Ken Wincko, Nicole Smith, Rebecca Lieb, Michael Praniloff. Photo courtesy of Victoria Harres.

You’be got the budget, you’ve got the plan – but is your content plan built to last? Keys to developing sustainable content strategies was front and center in the panel entitled “Don’t Run Out of Gas! Fueling a Sustainable Content Strategy” at Content Marketing World today.

Tellingly, two primary themes emerged from the discussion – the need for rigorous measurement and the reality that content needs to be promoted to be effective.

Panelists included PR Newswire’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ken Wincko,  Dell Inc.’s TechPageOne.com Managing Editor, Nicole Smith (@NicoleSatDell), and Altimeter Group’s Industry Analyst Rebecca Lieb (@Lieblink.) The discussion was moderated by Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff) director of emerging media for PR Newswire.

Business benefits will fuel sustained investment 

Building content strategies geared to deliver business benefit – and then measuring those results in a relevant way – is crucial to building a lasting program, the panelists agreed.

Rebecca Lieb (RL): Start with building an understanding of how content impacts broader benefits for the brand, including favorabilty, share of voice and improvements in customer care, customer service.

Nicole Smith (NS): Understand what you’re trying to achieve.  A bucket full of KPis is a diffused way of assessing your ROI.  Brands need to get specific about what they’re counting, and they need to be thinking about whether or not what they are measuring is relevant.

Break it down. What constitutes engagement? Increased comments? Really dig in and think about what’s relevant about your business.

Ken Wincko (KW): Think in term of what the specific challenges are for each your buyer personas along their buyers’ journeys?

How can brands get content to stand out in today’s fractured content environment? 

The days of organic propagation of content are waning, Lieb noted, driven largely by the convergence of paid, earned and owned media.   While the occasional great piece of content will go viral, in reality, most content requires promotion (at least at the outset) to drive amplification.

The panel agreed that search engines play a crucial component in driving content success, and that the meshing of paid, earned and owned media into converged forms provides important visibility opportunities for content marketers.

KW: Targeted outreach is an important way to reach influencers – the journalists and bloggers who own key niches to build expert advocacy for your brand.

Get beyond vague engagement metrics 

NS:  Cares that people find the content useful, and that they come back.  Comments are not as important.  We’re looking for a correlation between an activity and a result we like.  Reverse engineer it.

RL: Content marketers have to be careful to not resort to ad metrics. Publishers are trying to prove to advertisers that a lot of people are seeing their ads, and there’s not a lot of accountabilty beyond that.   Content marketing is not advertising, and it has to be more accountable.

KW:  Ultimately it’s connecting the dots between the interactions.  Tracking that activity through marketing automation in a multichannel way reveals what’s working for buyers across all the touch points.

When it comes to budget, advertising gets the lion’s share. How can content marketing compete?

RL: The Altimiter Group research demonstrated that advertising is losing ground, because content is more measurable and more effective.  Social channels only exist because there’s content in them.  Email is a container for content.  Sophisticated marketers are creating content, testing it in social and owned channels, and then investing expensive ad dollars into content that has been proven to strike s cord. Benefit: this also creates a unified brand voice.

The content cycle: content > owned > social > ad.  Lather, rinse repeat.

 

sarah avatar

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications & content, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Relevant Content: Driving the Kraft Marketing Engine

Photo of Julie Fleishman via  SimpleReach

Photo of Julie Fleischer via SimpleReach

With so many channels and the marginal cost of the creation and distribution of content, brands today are struggling to communicate with an increasingly fragmented audience.

“Consumer attention is ephemeral and is exponentially fleeting,” said Julie Fleischer (@jfly) of Kraft Foods in her Content Marketing World keynote.

What will save our brands?  According to Fleischer, the answer is content. “It’s an invitation to engage. It’s not intrusive and invites the consumer in.”

Content signals “I know you, you know me,” and creates trust, demonstrating shared interests. And in today’s digital environment, content is self-targeting, through search engines and social recommendations.

For these reasons, content is at the center of the Kraft Foods marketing engine.

At the beginning, content wasn’t aligned or integrated with the rest of Kraft’s messaging, despite the broad reach the content team had developed.

The new media landscape – driven by data and built on technology – changed that.  The future of consumer connection isn’t about mass, it’s about individuals and personalization, enabling brands to focus on niche interests and create customized, relevant and persuasive content.

Kraft has also built an agile approach, using data to quickly surface trends and deploy or create content to capture opportunity.

“Content and data are inextricably linked,” Fleischer noted. “Data is the value exchange and conversion is the outcome.”

Content and advertising have to be linked, helping to drive the precision of advertising in terms of both message and media, driving improved ROI.   “We seek to drive effectiveness, better segmenting, targeting and serving relevant communications,” Fleischer said of how Kraft combines the two to drive revenue.

Personal relevancy is a big focus at Kraft.  The company’s researchers are looking at consumers in terms of ‘microtribes’ and are developing precise measurement tools to quantify and understand both results and consumer behavior.

Fleischer offered advice to her fellow marketers for winning in today’s digital media world:

  • Relevancy requires the ability to change and adapt. Move fast, and break things.
  • Don’t be afraid to un-learn what you know and try another angle.
  • Culture trumps strategy. The pace of change will never be slower than it is today. If change is happening on the outside faster than it is on the inside, the end is in sight.
  • Expect to succeed. Swagger matters.
  • Start small.
  • Done is better than perfect.

Fleischer closed with invaluable and inspiring advice that succinctly summarized her journey in building the content engine that drives Kraft’s advertising and brand presences.

“Learn. Create. Deliver. Measure. Learn. Repeat.”

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications & content, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

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Is your content strategy sustainable?  A high-powered panel will tackle the ins and outs of building a sustainable content strategy at  Content Marketing World next week, in a discussion titled, “Don’t Run Out of Gas! How to Fuel a Sustainable Content Marketing Strategy,” slated for  Tuesday, September 9 at 11:00AM – 11:45AM EST.

Featured panelists include PR Newswire’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ken Wincko,  Dell Inc.’s TechPageOne.com Managing Editor, Nicole Smith (@NicoleSatDell), and Altimeter Group’s Industry Analyst Rebecca Lieb (@Lieblink.) The discussion will be moderated by Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff,) director of emerging media for PR Newswire, and will focus on developing and executing an ongoing content strategy, including:

  • What to do after creating a content calendar and plotting out the best channels to distribute messages,
  • How to develop a customer perspective that drives community engagement,
  • Ways to accelerate content promotion.

Conferences attendees can join the conversation on social media by completing the sentence “Content drives” using hashtags #contentdrives #cmworld.

Content Marketing World attendees can visit booth #11 at the event to hear more. You can also follow this link to learn more about how to accelerate your content strategy:  http://prn.to/ContentMarketingWorld2014

Storytelling With a Plan to Inspire #CMWorld

According to Andrew Davis (@TPLDrew) in his keynote that kicked off Content Marketing World today, the marketing funnel was invented in 1898 and is sorely in need of retirement.

In reality, he says, the best model for the online universe in which our brands live isn’t a simple funnel – it’s the universe.

“A Galilean model of the online universe has Google at the middle,” he told the assembled faithful at Content Marketing World, as he took the audience through a convoluted search journey.  “Funnel that.”

Look at your consumer’s perspective and map their universe, he challenged the group. It’s populated with the content and networks they love.  Ask yourself where your brand sits within universe?  Are you at the center? No.  Most brands are on the outer peripheries of their audiences’ universes.

Should we even be asking how we get closer and closer to the center of our audiences’ universes?  Probably not.  Can you put your content closer to THEIR universe, and still get them to act.

The key, Davis notes, is to know what inspires — and what triggers.

The buyers’ journey today doesn’t look at all like the centuries-old funnel.  Instead, Davis calls the process “active evaluation,” throughout which consumers continually add and subtract brands as they move closer and closer to purchase.

Creating moments of inspiration can keep your brand in active consideration and provide the trigger that moves the buyer to action.

But what is a moment of inspiration? Create moments of inspiration that can send people on a journey — instants in time that send them on journeys they never expected.   Therein, Davis posits, is the greatest revenue opportunity for content marketers.

Andrew Davis’ 4 secrets to driving moments of inspiration that drive revenue for brands.

  1. Build suspense when you tell a story. Create anxiety – what happens next?  Create drama.
  2. Foster aspiration. Show your audience the potential, and how they can achieve it. Tap into your audiences’ aspirations.
  3. Drive empathy. Understand and speak to your audiences’ feelings.
  4. Harness emotion. Get the audience to take action based upon the emotion you’ve generated and inspire people to act.

Make triggering an irresistible urge to act a primary goal of your marketing, Davis suggests.  After all, nothing has fueled our culture and consumer culture more than the content brands we love.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications & content, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

 

CMW_Release_Graphic_v3

Is your content strategy sustainable?  A high-powered panel will tackle the ins and outs of building a sustainable content strategy at  Content Marketing World next week, in a discussion titled, “Don’t Run Out of Gas! How to Fuel a Sustainable Content Marketing Strategy,” slated for  Tuesday, September 9 at 11:00AM – 11:45AM EST.

Featured panelists include PR Newswire’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ken Wincko,  Dell Inc.’s TechPageOne.com Managing Editor, Nicole Smith (@NicoleSatDell), and Altimeter Group’s Industry Analyst Rebecca Lieb (@Lieblink.) The discussion will be moderated by Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff,) director of emerging media for PR Newswire, and will focus on developing and executing an ongoing content strategy, including:

  • What to do after creating a content calendar and plotting out the best channels to distribute messages,
  • How to develop a customer perspective that drives community engagement,
  • Ways to accelerate content promotion.

Conferences attendees can join the conversation on social media by completing the sentence “Content drives” using hashtags #contentdrives #cmworld.

Content Marketing World attendees can visit booth #11 at the event to hear more. You can also follow this link to learn more about how to accelerate your content strategy:  http://prn.to/ContentMarketingWorld2014

One Message, Lots of Impact: the Art of Creating Content that Motivates

ContentWeLovePeople who watch a lot of online videos are likely to spend more money on holiday gifts this year, and more than a quarter of these big spenders are planning to buy all their gifts online.

That’s a heck of a news hook, certainly.  But there’s more to it than that.

A snippet of the accompanying infographic. Click the image to see the full size version.

A snippet of the accompanying infographic. Click the image to see the full size version.

What I love about today’s Content We Love example is twofold. The company issuing the survey results, Videology, is doing a great job of promoting a piece of their own content by surfacing the newsy elements, writing a really good press release, adding an infographic and distributing the whole package to the media.

(Link to the release: Heavy Video Viewers 57% More Likely to Spend on Holiday Gifts)

However, the way the PR team packaged the story will help direct resulting any news coverage advantageously for the brand.

In the messaging, the company also speaks directly to their target audiences, at several times tying data findings to opportunities for video advertisers – the market to which the company sells.

However, that commentary is skillfully handled in this release and doesn’t feel advertorial.  It’s embedded in a quote and offered as interpretation of the data.  In this example, the expert opinion in the press release serves up the company’s value proposition in a credible way.

It’s a smart approach that does a nice job of blending really interesting news (that I’m certain will garner good media coverage for Videology) with key messaging for the audience that is intended to motivate potential buyers.

This is a great example of the confluence of public relations and content marketing. We know that earned media can have a significant and powerful influence on potential buyers as they’re doing the research and making their decisions

Public relations teams who align messaging with their brands’ buyers journeys (as we see in this example)  can do more than simply spark media coverage. They can influence demand generation, attract qualified leads and have a significant impact on the organization’s revenue.

Are you going to Content Marketing World next week?  Track me down at the PR Newswire booth (#11) and say hi!   We have a lot planned for the event, and will be talking in more detail about building a sustainable content marketing strategy, which includes building an a truly integrated communications program. 

CMW_Release_Graphic_v3

Is your content strategy sustainable?  A high-powered panel will tackle the ins and outs of building a sustainable content strategy at  Content Marketing World next week, in a discussion titled, “Don’t Run Out of Gas! How to Fuel a Sustainable Content Marketing Strategy,” slated for  Tuesday, September 9 at 11:00AM – 11:45AM EST.

Featured panelists include PR Newswire’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Ken Wincko,  Dell Inc.’s TechPageOne.com Managing Editor, Nicole Smith (@NicoleSatDell), and Altimeter Group’s Industry Analyst Rebecca Lieb (@Lieblink.) The discussion will be moderated by Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff,) director of emerging media for PR Newswire, and will focus on developing and executing an ongoing content strategy, including:

  • What to do after creating a content calendar and plotting out the best channels to distribute messages,
  • How to develop a customer perspective that drives community engagement,
  • Ways to accelerate content promotion.

Conferences attendees can join the conversation on social media by completing the sentence “Content drives” using hashtags #contentdrives #cmworld.

Content Marketing World attendees can visit booth #11 at the event to hear more. You can also follow this link to learn more about how to accelerate your content strategy:  http://prn.to/ContentMarketingWorld2014

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications & content, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.