Category Archives: Content Marketing

The 4 Stages of Content Marketing Program Evolution

espresso and panicAny time an organization embarks upon a new marketing strategy, there are bound to be growing pains, milestones and (happily) successes.  Content marketing is no exception.  Where is your organization in the content journey?

Inception (0-6 months)

The corporate equivalent of taking the plunge, the inception phase kicks off when the company says “I do” to a content program.   At this stage, there is generally little to no content strategy or editorial plan, and goals tend to be broad and poorly defined (e.g. “Position company as a thought leader.”)

The “content team” (note, those were “air quotes”)  comprises a handful of dogged enthusiasts who operate on the edge of panic as they scrounge for content to fuel the blog, feed the newsletter and share via social channels.

The effectiveness of espresso as a creative muse is discovered.

Experimentation (6 mos. – 1 year)

The wheels are up on the content marking program and the team is in flight.  Air quotes are no longer used in description of the content team, because the stuff they’re creating is gaining traction in the marketplace.  Industry bloggers are taking note, the social channels have more relevant followers,  the efforts have spawned a few media hits, the company is starting to rank for a few key search terms and the sales team are incorporating messaging into their pitches and follow up.

The content team is starting to learn from their experience, and is honing the approach.   Content duds are identified and not repeated.  Basic persona research has helped the team sharpen the message focus.

As successes build, the demand for content across the organization increases.   Speaking invitations require prep and subsequent content creation.  Product managers emerge from their dens, requesting airtime and attention for their products.

People assume the content team are magical beings capable of pulling stories and visuals from thin air.  

Steady State (1-2 years)

What the content marketing program has lost in novelty, it has gained in budget and resource.  Several people are devoted to the task of content creation, curation and publishing. The blog is a permanent fixture, and has morphed into an important vehicle for keeping internal and external audiences informed and engaged.

Integration between teams is starting to solidify.   The content, social media and PR teams were the first to synch up, followed by the events team who has seen registrations increase when events get full exposure via numerous channels.   As a result, the organization’s communications silos stat to crack and campaigns morph from isolated episodes into longer-term and higher-value digital presences.

Growth in traffic, follows, click-throughs and referrers exhibits a satisfying up-and-to-the-right curve.

Busting a few department silos has whetted the content team’s appetite.   Sales, customer service, internal operations and demand gen are now in their sights.

It is clearly evident that content powers the universe.  

Focused Results (2+ years)

Content is making enough of an impact that others in the organization are noticing it, and are starting to think in terms of how to incorporate the benefits of successful content marketing programs into other marketing disciplines, including retention and demand-gen.

Never satisfied, the content team continues to hone messaging and starts to proactively promote owned content.  At first the PR team feels a bit queasy but they quickly realize the content marketing program is a rich source of the sorts of stories and stats journalists crave, so they quickly get on board.  Amplification rates and generation of potent earned media take off.

At this point, the data and analytics teams get really interested. The impact of content is undeniable, and opportunities abound to test messages and gauge results via content channels.

The brand’s marketing squad becomes fully integrated.  Content becomes the common thread linking upper-funnel visibility programs all the way through to conversion.  Using new insights from the analytics gurus, they create content aligned with personas and buying stages, crafting calls to action that engender specific responses and behaviors.   The web site becomes search engine magnet, social hub and sales machine.

The content marketer finds the real secret to successful content strategy.  It’s not doppio espressos (but keep ‘em coming nonetheless) nor is it magic.  It’s the integration of marketing activities up and down the funnel, linked with excellent content.

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.

 

 

 

Content We Love: How Non-Profits Can Use Owned and Paid Media to Spread Awareness

ContentWeLove

via Safe Kids Worldwide

via Safe Kids Worldwide

In the wake of the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon, a lot of discussion has been centered on how more non-profit organizations can leverage digital communication to increase awareness of social issues. One of the most important parts of a non-profit’s communications strategy is to educate the general public about the importance of their cause with facts and information that will inspire action. Safe Kids Worldwide, a non-profit organization aimed at preventing childhood injury, demonstrates how the power of content  distribution can help spread awareness of a single message to the greatest audience possible in a press release titled, “Can We Change the Culture of Youth Sports?

Safe Kids Worldwide partnered with Johnson & Johnson to shed light on the dangerous behaviors and cultural expectations of child athletes that can result in severe injuries or in the worst case scenarios, death.  The release employs a mix of tactics to grab attention and get the point across effectively:

  • An infographic included in the press release highlights key findings from the survey in a concise and visually engaging way. Content needs to be delivered in all the formats that audiences prefer to consume information. Considering that mommy bloggers are a powerful source of influence on the web, this infographic is a great visual to accompany a potential story.
  • The headline uses a provocative question to capture attentions and a subhead provides supporting detail to hint at the findings of their survey
  • The lead paragraph omits the boilerplate language and instead begins with an alarming stat regarding the number of children who sustain a sports injury every year to immediately grab attention.
  • A call to action linking to the survey and infographic immediately after the first paragraph drives readers to the intended action to learn more about the seriousness of child sports injuries
  • Additional stats are listed separately to surface different story angles
  • Statements from the President and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, Kate Carr and NCAA’s former football coach Jack Crowe, emphasize the importance of the issue and offer journalists a highly credible source to quote in their stories
  • Bullet points and bold text with sports safety tips the eye toward the bottom of the release as well

Stats from the “Changing the Culture of Youth Sports” report as well as the executive quotes from the release were republished in major outlets including CBS News and USA Today. For other non-profit organizations who need help spreading awareness of their messages, Safe Kids Worldwide sets an example of how content can be formatted and shared in different ways to bring much needed attention to a cause. Congratulations to Safe Kids Worldwide on their efforts to prevent child injuries and on the success of their release!

ShannonAuthor Shannon Ramlochan is PR Newswire’s Content Marketing Coordinator.

Timeless Storytelling Tips from Former PR Newswire Features Editor Fred Ferguson

freddieEditor’s note:  The following piece is based upon an article published years ago by our then Features Editor, Fred Ferguson.  We were saddened to hear news this week of Fred’s passing.  A PR Newswire employee for more than 16 years, Fred left an indelible mark on the organization and instilled keen news sensibility in many of his colleagues.   In today’s age of content marketing, his advice on fashioning effective news pieces is more relevant and timely than ever.

A computer programmer develops a program to keep Internet pornography from the PC his son uses.

A retired schoolteacher produces a set of cards to teach his own children math and vocabulary faster.

And a dance teacher confined to a chair because of a broken leg creates a videotape teaching chair dancing.

These are the personal, dramatic stories that once hid in routine news releases, according to Fred Ferguson, the former manager of PR Newswire’s Feature News Service who passed away on August 22, 2014.

His advice, which encouraged organizations to incorporate feature news writing into their press releases and publicity campaigns, is still instructive today, and not just for PR pros penning press releases.  Marketers who want their content to resonate with audiences should pay heed to Ferguson’s words too.

“Organizations and companies who need publicity may get more exposure by doing a feature story rather than issuing a straight news releases,” said Ferguson, who was a longtime reporter, editor and executive with United Press International before joining PR Newswire.  “Unless you’re announcing something or have breaking news, tell your story in a feature that won’t bury the heart of it.”

Ferguson’s tips for creating a compelling feature story focused rigorously on putting the audience for the story first, and the brand second.

  • Hit editors with the story in the headline, which is all they see in selecting stories.
  • Tell the same story in first paragraph, which should never be cute, soft, a quote or a question. These leads obstruct getting to the story. People, editors included, don’t read deep;
  • Support the first paragraph with a second that backs it up and provides attribution. Bury the product and service name at the end of the second paragraph so it becomes less advertorial.
  • Try to keep all paragraphs under 30 words and to three lines. This curbs fulmination, is easier for editors to cut to fit available space, holds the reader’s attention and is attractive in most page layouts;
  • Do not excessively repeat the name of a product or service. Doing so is story desecration and the feature loses print and broadcast opportunities;
  • Forget superlatives. Forget techno babble. Forget buzz words. Tell why consumers care instead;
  • Never say anything is first or the best, express an opinion or make claims unless you directly attribute it to someone. Editors avoid anything not pinned to someone;
  • Avoid the self-serving laundry list of products or services. A better way to introduce a product or service is to have a spokesperson discussing it as a trend or advising how to use it;
  • Know that putting the corporate name in all capital letters violates style and will be rejected by many as advertorial and unsightly. Also beware trademark repetition.
  • Do not use the corporate identity statement. Instead, use the information throughout the story so that it will be used. If you must use the boilerplate, put it in note to editor so it won’t interfere with text.

Storytelling is all the rage today in marketing circles.  Fred knew the power of stories, and taught scores of communicators the ins and outs of storytelling.

Our thoughts are with Fred’s family and friends, and he has our everlasting thanks for his sharing of his knowledge and enthusiasm with his cohorts, cronies, colleagues and clients.

Content We Love: A Press Release for B2B Buyers

ContentWeLove

Intermedia CWL

Click to view the complete multimedia news release

A Forrester analysis of 30 b-to-b company websites found that 80% were primarily focused on themselves with little regard to the issues that customers might be facing. In other words, a majority of companies are still unsure of how to craft messages that resonate with their audiences, which may be one of the reasons why 51% of marketers told Forrester that their content marketing efforts are only somewhat effective. Laura Ramos, VP at Forrester, strongly emphasizes that “b-to-b businesses should speak about the business issues their buyers are facing, and what can be done to address those issues.”

Forrester’s research highlights the need for companies to channel the customer-focused strengths of PR to make greater headway in their content marketing efforts. A great example of how to combine both forces can be seen in Intermedia’s multimedia news release titled, “The ex-employee menace: 89% retain access to Salesforce, QuickBooks & other sensitive corporate apps.” From the headline to the final sentence, the message is primarily focused on the concerns of Intermedia’s b-to-b audience while establishing the brand’s expertise in information security.

Just a few of the elements that content marketers should make note of:

  • It is without a doubt challenging to create a company website that both promotes products and services but does not appear to be self-promotional, but this branded multimedia news release works around the challenge by familiarizing readers with Intermedia’s visual identity and focusing on a single customer-centric message.
  • The headline of this release draws upon a compelling stat from Intermedia’s survey results to attract reader interest and optimize it for social sharing.
  • A call to action near the top of the release using a trackable link drives readers back to the company’s website and provides data that can help measure content marketing success rates.
  • Downloadable content offers including a video, an infographic, a checklist, and web report present key findings of the survey in different formats that are sharable and cater to the different audience preferences of consuming information.
  • US and UK versions of each content type target the message to regional audiences.

Remember, it’s not just the media that are reading press releases; b-to-b buyers are researching the solution sets that fit their needs far in advance of contacting a sales representative. Intermedia presents a use case of how to write a press release that caters specifically to buyers, which is made more discoverable by the audiences in search of this information through the power of multi-channel distribution.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to incorporate PR into your content marketing strategy, view our on-demand webinar: How to Drive Demand Generation with PR Tactics

ShannonAuthor Shannon Ramlochan is PR Newswire’s Content Marketing Coordinator. 

10 Tips for Creating Wildly Successful Infographics

PRN_Infographic_Tips

Infographics are playing a larger role in visual storytelling efforts. When they are thoughtfully designed, they provide attention-grabbing visuals that also help the reader better comprehend and remember the message. This added value to the reader often encourages further engagement and sharing.

Based on my experience creating infographics that are used in PR Newswire’s press releases, blog posts and presentations, here are some best practices for designing infographics that drive results:

Design Basics
These tips can be applied to any design process to get the best end result.

  1. Sketch first, polish later.Before you hop into Photoshop, Illustrator, etc., sketch out your ideas on some old-fashioned paper. My process often starts with a roughly drawn outline of grouped ideas. Once I get that initial visualization of my own thoughts, I can make quick adjustments in another layout sketch before I start work in Adobe’s finest.
  2. Solicit feedbackAs with most creative endeavors, having your work colleagues review your design can help you make the piece even stronger. I will often ask my non-designer teammates for their opinions early on in the process to make sure the concept is being clearly conveyed. I circle back to them again at the end on for fine tuning.
  1. Start in high resolution.
    You can always scale down the image, but scaling up takes additional time and resources.

Multi-Use Flexibility
Infographics can take on many forms and be used in multiple channels. Accounting for this early in your design process will save you some time and money.

  1. Align to your story.
    The first thing to consider is your reason for creating this image – to support the story in an email campaign, blog post, press release, etc.  The information you share in your visual should closely align with the accompanying text of this primary placement. Be sure the terms, structure and tone are consistent to provide cohesive support to your written story.
  1. Strengthen it to stand alone.
    You probably want your users to share your image on social media, so it needs to make sense without the accompanying text of your written story. Be sure to include a clear title of what a reader should expect from the graphic. If you’re targeting a niche audience, make sure you clarify this context in the title and/or subtitle.
  1. Plan for alternate uses.
    We all have limited resources, so you won’t want to spend extra time reformatting your amazing design after the fact. Be aware of common re-purposing and plan accordingly.Generally, I’d say you should always be prepared for these two scenarios:

    1. Presentations: Someone in your organization will want to include it in a PowerPoint deck at some point. I always make sure that the featured data of my infographic is in a landscape layout, which can be easily cropped and dropped onto a slide.
    2. Print-friendly PDFs: Whether for use as sales collateral or an event handout, it’s likely that someone will want to print out your rockstar infographic somewhere down the line. Bearing this in mind, I begin all my layouts in standard paper size (8.5 in x 11 in) in high resolution, allowing for a minimum 0.25” margin of white space.

Viewer Friendly
The trend of long-scrolling, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink data visualization has come and gone. Readers are looking for shorter bursts of visual content .

  1. Narrow your focus.
    Keep your audience’s limited attention span focused by narrowing your visual scope to the core of your message. Your ultimate goal should be to clearly convey one idea.If there are additional thoughts and ideas that you want to include, consider the following options:
  • Supporting items should take a visual backseat to your key point. The reader’s eye should clearly flow from the title to the key idea first.
  • Similar but equally strong ideas might benefit from their own separate graphics. Why squish everything into one, when you can create a short series.
  • Perhaps a single infographic is not the best visual solution for your message. For compound, complex ideas, a video might be a better fit to clarify your message. Or, to unify a series of infographics, consider creating a Slideshare presentation and/or a PDF.
  1. Cut excess words.
    Infographics should always be easy to scan—and understand—quickly. Limit supporting text to a single sentence whenever possible. If it takes a paragraph to explain a visual, it probably isn’t the right visual to use. Even if you’re creating a visual list, brevity should still be top priority.

Mobile-Minded
Audiences are spending more and more time on their smartphones and tablets, and that includes viewing your infographics. Make sure it’s just as easy for them to view on smaller devices.

  1. Avoid tiny text.
    Don’t make your mobile audiences squint. As a rule of thumb, I try to keep my detail text at or above 12pt (in the original 300 dpi source file).
  2. Account for retina displays.
    Even though screens have gotten smaller, the resolution has doubled. Ensure your work doesn’t look blurry or pixelated on high definition tablets by doubling the standard length and width of the 72 dpi specs.For example, if you are posting a graphic to your blog where the standard image size is 500×250, you’ll want to save your image to 1000×500 with 72 dpi.

Now that you’ve created your wildly successful infographic, be sure it gets the attention it deserves by promoting it across all “PESO” channels – Paid, Earned, Social & Owned.

PR Newswire offers a benefit to members that allows them to easily store, organize, and incorporate visuals into campaigns using Media Studio in the Online Member Center. Click here to learn more.

jamie_400x400Author Jamie Heckler is the Senior Creative Manager at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter @jamieheckle

Using PR to Power Demand Generation

pr for demand gen

PR pros know that generating positive publicity and influencing public sentiment can have profound business benefits.  Measurement of public relations has always been a challenge, however, stymieing efforts to connect PR directly to a brand’s top line.  However, our audiences demand and consume greater quantities of digital content, the measurement problem is finding answers, and we’re developing a clear picture of the impact PR can have on specific brand initiatives.

Demand generation programs, which are designed to build specific awareness of and interest in a brand’s products or services, are at the beginning of the lead generation process.  Strongly aligned with content marketing, demand-gen programs can be significantly improved when integrated PR.  In addition to driving revenue, the PR/demand-gen integration also benefits PR: results are measurable and sustainable.

Aligning the PR & demand generation messages 

“We believe PR is vital and can help amplify the content strategy, but the content strategy also helps to achieve and amplify the PR strategy,” says Candyce Edelen, CEO of PropelGrowth, a New York area financial services content marketing firm and a strong advocate of aligning public relations with marketing efforts. “All of your marketing should be integrated. Everything should be integrated with the same message across channels, including PR. Clients and prospects will receive the same message and when they do, they’re more likely to remember it.”

Interested in learning more about how PR directly contributes sales? Register now for our free webinar “How to Drive Demand Generation with PR Tactics” 

Driving  Demand GenUsing key messages consistently across channels is crucial to using PR to drive measurable demand, Edelen says. “The talking points you want to see in press should also be included in every piece of related marketing content, in addition to press releases and executive interviews.”

The non-promotional content created for demand generation programs can also positively impact press coverage, Edelen notes. Thought leadership, research studies and  bylines can provide useful background information for busy reporters. It’s especially helpful if your demand generation content tells an interesting story.

Measuring PR’s effect on demand-gen

Driving the audience to act is one piece of the equation.  Measuring the effect PR has on demand-gen efforts is another.  According to Anthony Hardman, director of public relations for Access Advertising & PR, the information is out there, you just need to find it.

“The world has shifted and you have to understand the sales portion of it — that’s what exectives want to see,” he says.  For public relations professionals, this means building discipline around including measurable calls to action in messaging, to engage customers and prospects browsing the digital content the brand has published.

“For B2B, communicators need to use digital media convergence to drive traffic to landing pages around campaigns, and try to get a “microconversion” such as following a link, filling out a form or downloading a report,” he says. “B2Cs need to drive smart refferals.  Posting a photo without a link to your e-commerce site won’t be effective.”

Putting effective measurement tools in place is crucial for measuring PR’s effect on demand- and lead-generation.  Organizations using some form of marketing automation software, such as Marketo or Hubspot, will have an easier time with the task.

“If you’re using marketing automation, it’s easier,” Hardman notes. “You can track the referral traffic PR generates, and monitor visitor behavior.”

Web site analytics can show the subsequent behavior of the visitors your PR efforts drove to the company’s web site and landing pages, and in many cases, can enable PR teams to track visitor behavior all the way through to the purchase.  For smaller organizations, Hardman recommends that PR pros carve out time to understand Google Analytics.

Put the customer first

Edelen and Hardman both agree that ultimately, the customer’s interests have to be served by the messaging.

“We should be aligned around how the customer talks about the problem,” notes Edelyn.

“You have to create content that is useful and interesting to the people you’re trying to reach,” adds Hardman.

The awareness and visibility public relations generates can be measured today in terms of inbound web traffic, lead scores and conversion rates, as well as in the adoption and use of specific language on social channels and search behavior.   To learn more about how PR can power demand generation programs, and how to measure the results, tune into our upcoming webinar:

How to Drive Demand Generation with PR Tactics
Date: August 13, 2014
Time: 1:00 pm EST
Register: prn.to/1uiMWUr

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

 

The Long Click – An Important Measure for Communicators

long clickAn indicator of content quality, the “long click” reveals whether or not audiences are truly engaging with your content. lil tweet bird

Digital communications are incredibly measurable.  Marketers know which websites refer the highest quality traffic to their own sites, and they know which pages on their websites do better job of converting visitors into customers. Many details about the behavior of visitor behavior before, during and after a website visit can be captured.  But the marketing team isn’t the only group keeping an eye on how audiences interact with a website.  Search engine spiders are paying attention, too.

Keeping the measurability of digital content in mind, let’s think about the new PR reality – the public relations team as publisher and story crafters, not simply spin doctors called upon to manage crises or crank out releases.

Developing a stream of quality, useful content that your audience uses is one of the most effective ways to build search rank for a web site, improve audience engagement and fill the organization’s pipeline with prospects.

Within all of these considerations is a golden opportunity for PR to produce a measurable and meaningful business impact from the content the organization is already publishing.

The “long click” – a golden opportunity for PR
Generally speaking, two things happen when a person visits a webpage: they either take a quick look and then immediately leave, or they stay for a good long time consuming the content on the page and possibly even clicking on some of the links on the page and further interacting with the website.

In web parlance, the former is a bounce, and it’s bad.  What’s the use in attracting visitors to your content, only to have them immediately leave? In reality, this kind of traffic can be damaging to a website’s overall rankings, because search engines consider bounces as a strong indicator of the presence of poor quality content on the site.

The opposite scenario is called a “long click.” If the content you publish is attracting people to your website stay on the page and read the press releases and watch the videos and click on the links, that’s good for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, people who are spending that much time on your website are obviously consuming your messaging.  They are more likely to actually turn into customers, and along the way, they may take additional steps such as bookmarking or sharing content on your website or interacting with the brand successful media presences, developing further traction.

All of these behaviors are also positive signals that search engines notice indicating that the website is serving up high quality content that site visitors value.

Outcomes PR can measure 

Web analytics programs such as Site Catalyst and Google Analytics measure the time visitors spend on a page.  Additionally, it’s entirely possible to measure the traffic coming for specific sources (such as press releases, your online media room, etc.) and make some assumptions about the quality of those visitors by looking at their time on page data.  If it’s going up, generally, that’s a pretty good sign.

Digital PR teams that are publishing distributed content can embed short URLs within press releases, blog posts, articles and other content to measure traffic back to the destination page on your company website, providing a good measure of the traffic referred directly from the PR message. However, you can take it a step further by then asking the web team to analyze the time on page data for visitors to that page. In some cases, your analytics team may be able to even isolate visitors driven to the page by specific pieces of your content, and compare the time the PR-referred visitors spend on the page, compared to that spent by visitors from other sources.

This enables the PR team to establish a benchmark that they can use to measure this success in future campaigns, and also for setting overall objectives for the department.  Moving the needle on long clicks is actually reasonable PR outcome but more organizations should be adopting and measure.

Want more ideas for new ways to measure the business impact of your public relations campaigns?   This on-demand webinar archive offers first-hand examples on connecting  (and measuring!) PR to business outcomes.  Here’s the link: http://prn.to/1o4qblS 

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